Angelina Jolie has revealed she has had a preventative double mastectomy after tests showed she had an 87% chance of contracting breast cancer.

The actress made the decision to undergo the procedure in February after learning that she is a carrier of the BRCA1 cancer gene.

The 37-year-old’s mother Marcheline Bertrand died at the age of 56 from ovarian cancer, which Angelina revealed she has a 50% chance of contracting.

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Speaking out: Angelina Jolie, pictured here on April 4 this year after having a preventative double mastectomy, underwent the surgery after discovering she had an 87% change of contracting breast cancer

Speaking out: Angelina Jolie, pictured here on April 4 this year after having a preventative double mastectomy, underwent the surgery after discovering she had an 87% change of contracting breast cancer

 
Brave choice: Angelina looked in good spirits as she attended the Women in the World event following the initial stage of the procedures
Brave choice: Angelina looked in good spirits as she attended the Women in the World event following the initial stage of the procedures
 

Brave choice: Angelina looked in good spirits as she attended the Women in the World event following the initial stage of the procedures

Writing in an editorial piece entitled ‘My Medical Choice’ in the New York Times, Angelina explained her decision, revealing that she had the initial procedure on February 16th before having the reconstruction operation on April 20th.

She wrote: ‘My doctors estimated that I had an 87% risk of breast cancer and a 50% risk of ovarian cancer, although the risk is different in the case of each woman.

‘Only a fraction of breast cancers result from an inherited gene mutation. Those with a defect in BRCA1 have a 65% risk of getting it, on average.

‘Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much I could. I made a decision to have a preventive double mastectomy.

‘I started with the breasts, as my risk of breast cancer is higher than my risk of ovarian cancer, and the surgery is more complex.

ANGELINA’S BRAVE JOURNEY

February 2nd – Angelina begins three months of treatments prior to undergoing a preventative double mastectomy, starting with a ‘nipple delay, which rules out disease in the breast ducts behind the nipple and draws extra blood flow to the area’

February 16th – The actress undergoes the major surgery – an eight hour operation which sees the breast tissue removed before temporary fillers are put in place

March 26th – Angelina is pictured in the Republic of Congo with William Hague following the initial operation

April 4th – Angelina attends the Women in the World Summit in New York looking in good spirits

April 11th – Angelina is pictured with William Hague at the G8 Summit in London

 

April 20th – Angelina has the final operation as her breasts are reconstructed with implants

April 27th – The mother-of-six completes the medical process. She is told that the surgery was a success and her chances of contracting breast cancer have now been reduced from 87% to less than 5%

May 14th – Angelina reveals her decision in an editorial piece published in the New York Times newspaper

‘On April 27, I finished the three months of medical procedures that the mastectomies involved. During that time I have been able to keep this private and to carry on with my work.’

The star’s surgery was successful and doctors say Angelina’s chances of developing breast cancer have now lowered to less than 5%.

‘I wanted to write this to tell other women that the decision to have a mastectomy was not easy,’ she wrote. ‘But it is one I am very happy that I made.

 
Tragic loss: Angelina's mother Marcheline Bertrand sadly died from ovarian cancer at the age of 56

Tragic loss: Angelina’s mother Marcheline Bertrand sadly died from ovarian cancer at the age of 56

Procedure: Angelina had the surgery at the Pink Lotus Breast Center in Beverly Hills, where Sheryl Crow was also treated when she suffered from breast cancer

Procedure: Angelina had the surgery at the Pink Lotus Breast Center in Beverly Hills, where Sheryl Crow was also treated when she suffered from breast cancer

‘My chances of developing breast cancer have dropped from 87% to under 5%. I can tell my children that they don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer.’

Angelina praised the support her fiancé Brad Pitt and their children, Maddox, 11, Pax, nine, Zahara, eight, Shiloh, six, and four-year-old twins Knox and Vivienne, gave her during treatment.

‘It is reassuring that they see nothing that makes them uncomfortable. They can see my small scars and that’s it. Everything else is just Mommy, the same as she always was. And they know that I love them and will do anything to be with them as long as I can.

‘I am fortunate to have a partner, Brad Pitt, who is so loving and supportive. So to anyone who has a wife or girlfriend going through this, know that you are a very important part of the transition. Brad was at the Pink Lotus Breast Center, where I was treated, for every minute of the surgeries.

‘We managed to find moments to laugh together. We knew this was the right thing to do for our family and that it would bring us closer. And it has.’

 
Family matters: Angelina said her six children are one of the main reasons she decided to have the surgery

Family matters: Angelina said her six children are one of the main reasons she decided to have the surgery

 
Supportive: The actress said her fiancé Brad Pitt has been by her side throughout the treatment and that they have still found the time to laugh

Supportive: The actress said her fiancé Brad Pitt has been by her side throughout the treatment and that they have still found the time to laugh

Angelina assured that having the double mastectomy hasn’t changed the way she feels about herself and her womanliness, and added that results of reconstructive surgery ‘can be beautiful’.

WHAT IS A PREVENTATIVE MASTECTOMY?

Preventive mastectomy is the surgical removal of one or both breasts. It is done to prevent or reduce the risk of breast cancer in women who are at high risk of developing the disease.

In a total mastectomy, doctors remove the entire breast and nipple, while in a subcutaneous mastectomy, the doctor removes the breast tissue but leaves the nipple intact.

Existing data suggests that the treatment may significantly reduce the chances of developing tumors by about 90%.

Many choose to have breast reconstruction to restore the shape of the breast following surgery.

SOURCE: http://www.cancer.go

 

‘On a personal note, I do not feel any less of a woman,’ she said. ‘I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity.’

In addition, the brave star hopes that she can encourage other women to be informed and consider their options.

‘I am writing about it now because I hope that other women can benefit from my experience. Cancer is still a word that strikes fear into people’s hearts, producing a deep sense of powerlessness.

‘But today it is possible to find out through a blood test whether you are highly susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer, and then take action.’

Angelina added: ‘For any woman reading this, I hope it helps you to know you have options. I want to encourage every woman, especially if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, to seek out the information and medical experts who can help you through this aspect of your life, and to make your own informed choices.

‘I choose not to keep my story private because there are many women who do not know that they might be living under the shadow of cancer. It is my hope that they, too, will be will able to get gene tested, and that if they have a high risk they, too, will know that they have strong options.

 
 
Brave woman: Angelina, seen with son Maddox on April 12, hopes that speaking out will encourage other women to be informed and understand their options

Brave woman: Angelina, seen with son Maddox on April 12, hopes that speaking out will encourage other women to be informed and understand their options

 

 
Still working hard: Angelina attended the G8 summit in London on April 11 with William Hague, after the initial operation but prior to the process being finished

Still working hard: Angelina attended the G8 summit in London on April 11 with William Hague, after the initial operation but prior to the process being finished

 
A lot going on: Angelina was still in the midst of her procedures when she attended the Foreign Ministers G8 meeting in Lancaster House on April 11 in London, England

A lot going on: Angelina was still in the midst of her procedures when she attended the Foreign Ministers G8 meeting in Lancaster House on April 11 in London, England

‘Life comes with many challenges. The ones that should not scare us are the ones we can take on and take control of.’

Foreign Secretary William Hague, who in March visited refugee camps in the Democratic Republic of Congo with Jolie as part of a campaign to highlight the problem of mass rape in conflict areas, said she was ‘a brave lady’ who would be ‘an inspiration to many’.

Mr Hague told Sky News: ‘She is a courageous lady and a very professional lady. She’s done a lot of work with me in recent months.

‘She also came over to the G8 foreign ministers’ summit in London to work with me on our initiative on preventing sexual violence in conflict and travelled with me through some difficult places in the Congo.

‘She gave no sign that she was undergoing such treatment and I think she’s a very brave lady, not only to carry on with her work so well during such treatment, but also to write about it now and talk about it. I think that she’s a brave lady and will be an inspiration to many.’

Travelling: Angelina, pictured March 26 this year, travelled to the Republic of Congo with Hague for her humanitarian duties during the month of March

Travelling: Angelina, pictured March 26 this year, travelled to the Republic of Congo with Hague for her humanitarian duties during the month of March

 

 
Finding time for others: Despite going through her own personal battles, Angelina continued to help others by travelling to the Congo in a bid to encourage world powers to do more to tackle rape and sexual assault in war zones

Finding time for others: Despite going through her own personal battles, Angelina continued to help others by travelling to the Congo in a bid to encourage world powers to do more to tackle rape and sexual assault in war zones

Angelina isn’t the only celebrity to make the difficult decision to have a preventative mastectomy after discovering she was a carrier of the BRCA1 gene.

Sharon Osbourne revealed last year that she had undergone the procedure after previously battling colon cancer back in 2002.

Explaining the decision, Sharon said at the time: ‘As soon as I found out I had the breast cancer gene, I thought, “The odds are not in my favour.”

‘I’ve had cancer before and I didn’t want to live under that cloud. I decided to just take everything off, and had a double mastectomy.’

WHY A SIMPLE TEST CAN SAVE A WOMAN’S LIFE

Major medical developments are enabling more women than ever to survive breast cancer and many are able to prevent it occurring in the first place.

Around 48,000 British women develop breast cancer each year and while the causes are diverse, family history and genes play the largest role in triggering the disease

One of the greatest advances in preventative breast cancer treatment was the discovery of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes – acronyms for ‘breast cancer susceptibility gene 1’ and ‘breast cancer susceptibility gene 2’ – which were discovered in  1994 and 1995 respectively.

Testing for them became available in 1996 and they are currently the two most important genes used to predict the likelihood of a woman developing cancer. Other genes such as the TP53 and PTEN also suggest the likelihood of developing the disease, but none are as strongly linked to cancer as the BRCA genes.

Normal BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are very important in preventing tumour growth, but if one of them is faulty, there is a high likelihood that they will in fact promote tumour growth.  

There is no one type of faulty BRCA gene – scientists have discovered over 100 different ways that the genes can mutate to increase the risk of a person developing cancer.

Despite publicity, faulty BRCA genes are in fact very rare and affect fewer than one in 500 people. It is also important to note that not all people who have a faulty BRCA gene will go on to develop cancer.

They do however put women at a higher risk of developing breast, ovarian and fallopian cancer in particular. Men with a faulty BRCA2 gene are also at a higher risk of developing breast cancer and, according to some studies, possibly pancreatic, testicular and prostate cancer.

The lifetime chance of a woman developing breast cancer is 10 %, but this goes up to 80%  if they possess a mutated BRCA2 gene. The gene also raises the risk of developing ovarian cancer from 1.4% to up to 40%.

Women can lower their risk of developing cancer by maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet and by taking regular exercise.

But even if they do lead a model lifestyle, women testing positive for a faulty BRCA gene will be unable to reduce their cancer risk to below 50%.

If a woman is diagnosed with cancer and has a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer, she will usually be offered a blood test to see whether she possesses a faulty gene.

Women who do not have cancer can be offered testing if they are at a high risk of having a faulty gene, such as possessing a strong family history of the specific cancers.

If a woman tests positive, she has several options. Surgery is not always necessary and in some cases surveillance using mammograms and MRI scanning as well as taking preventative drugs are options.

But because the risk of developing a cancer is so high, many women opt for preventative surgery.

Many women will choose to undergo a double mastectomy – the removal of both breasts – and sometimes an oophorectomy or removal of the ovaries.

A double mastectomy reduces the risk of developing breast cancer by up to 95%. However, even if a woman undergoes a double mastectomy, it is still important to monitor the chest in case traces of leftover breast tissue that cannot be removed become cancerous.

An oophorectomy will reduce the risk of developing ovarian cancer by up to 90%.

Recent studies have shown that more women than ever are opting to have their breasts removed as a preventative measure.

Many women who undergo a double mastectomy will opt for reconstructive surgery at the same time as the removal of their real breasts. This helps psychologically – they do not wake up with a flat chest – and it can help reduce the amount of trauma inflicted on the body by doing both procedures in one operation.

Former Liberty X singer Michelle Heaton also underwent a preventative double mastectomy after discovering she carried the BRCA2 gene, meaning she had up to an 80% chance of getting breast cancer.

Speaking about Angelina’s decision on Daybreak on Tuesday morning, Michelle said:I can’t even stress how much of an impact that I had talking to women to say that I was going through this, it was such a huge impact. Imagine what impact somebody as huge as Angelina Jolie can have on this.’

And E! News presenter Giuliana Rancic, who had a double mastectomy in December 2012 after being diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2011, was quick to tweet her support for Angelina, writing: ‘Proud of her for using her incredible platform to educate women.’

 

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