Angelina Jolie revealed in an editorial in this morning's The New York Times that she recently underwent a double mastectomy as a preventative measure. The piece, titled "My Medical Choice," centers around a faulty gene, BRCA1, that she carries — the gene gives her a reported 87 percent risk of breast cancer and 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer. As Jolie wrote, her mother died of breast cancer at age 56, and she hopes this column will prove there are options for breast cancer-prone women who may be able to avoid her mother's fate.
"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."
We spoke to Susan Domcheck, MD, director of the Basser Research Center for BRCA at the University of Pennsylvania, about Jolie's faulty gene. "We know from our research that having a prophylactic (preventative) mastectomy is the most effective way to for women who carry BRCA1/2 mutations to reduce their risk of developing breast cancer, but that surgery does come with costs, especially around body image, which is understandably an important factor for women," says Domchek "That's why we're working to develop other ways to prevent cancer in these high-risk women — like vaccines and new medications — so that women someday have new, less invasive options."
Jolie, who began the process on Feb. 2, now has just a five percent chance of developing breast cancer. We salute Jolie for so bravely telling her story and proving that cancer can be a challenge of which we can take control.
Read the full The New York Times editorial, here.