Two years ago, actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie Pitt wrote a heartfelt piece about her decision to have a preventative double mastectomy.
Jolie Pitt bravely told an emotional story about her "estimated 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer" because she carries the BRCA1 gene mutation. She lost her mother, grandmother, and aunt to cancer.
"It is not easy to make these decisions," she wrote. "But it is possible to take control and tackle head-on any health issue."
Ever since her surgery two years ago, she'd been seriously considering the second preventative procedure, but she was pushed into action when medical tests revealed potential signs of ovarian cancer.
She relived the nerve-racking ordeal:
I was relieved that if it was cancer, it was most likely in the early stages. If it was somewhere else in my body, I would know in five days. I passed those five days in a haze, attending my children's soccer game, and working to stay calm and focused.
The day of the results came. The PET/CT scan looked clear, and the tumor test was negative. I was full of happiness, although the radioactive tracer meant I couldn't hug my children. There was still a chance of early stage cancer, but that was minor compared with a full-blown tumor. To my relief, I still had the option of removing my ovaries and fallopian tubes and I chose to do it.
Jolie Pitt had the laparoscopic bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy last week. To her relief, there was a small benign tumor on one ovary but no signs of cancer in any of her tissues.
Despite the hormone replacements she's taking, she's now in menopause as a result of the surgery. So, obviously, she can't have any more children, yet she feels at ease: "I feel feminine, and grounded in the choices I am making for myself and my family. l know my children will never have to say, 'Mom died of ovarian cancer,'" she wrote.
She said she made her decision public to help other women at risk understand their options. She explained:
I did not do this solely because I carry the BRCA1 gene mutation, and I want other women to hear this. A positive BRCA test does not mean a leap to surgery. I have spoken to many doctors, surgeons and naturopaths. There are other options. Some women take birth control pills or rely on alternative medicines combined with frequent checks. There is more than one way to deal with any health issue. The most important thing is to learn about the options and choose what is right for you personally.
Her ultimate message? "Knowledge is power."
You can (and really should) read the full piece here.
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