Angelina Jolie has revealed that she underwent preventative surgery to have her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed last week after tests found inflammatory markers that could be an indication of cancer.
Jolie, who had a preventive double mastectomy in 2013 when genetic tests showed an 87 percent risk of breast cancer, wrote in a New York Times op-ed on Tuesday that the same BRCA1 gene gives her a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer.
As a result, the 39-year-old filmmaker, actress, UN envoy and mother of six had been planning to undergo the procedure for some time.
“It is a less complex surgery than the mastectomy, but its effects are more severe. It puts a woman into forced menopause,” Jolie wrote. “So I was readying myself physically and emotionally, discussing options with doctors, researching alternative medicine, and mapping my hormones for estrogen or progesterone replacement. But I felt I still had months to make the date.”
When she learned two weeks ago that tests revealed higher inflammation levels, Jolie and her doctors decided it was time. Her husband, actor Brad Pitt, who was in France at the time, flew to be with her during the procedure, a laparoscopic bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy.
Jolie wrote that doctors found a small benign tumor on one ovary, but no signs of cancer in any of the tissues.
As a result of the surgery, she is now in menopause.
After her double mastectomy, Jolie revealed to People magazine that she was planning to have her ovaries removed. She also told Entertainment Weekly that she was preparing to have another surgery to prevent cancer.
In her latest op-ed, Jolie emphasized that her decisions are specific to her, and that a family history of the disease played a role in her decision. She lost her mother, grandmother and aunt to cancer.
Jolie said other women may have different options, writing:
“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.”
She added that younger women may have the option to remove the fallopian tubes but keep their ovaries so they do not go into menopause and can still have children.
“It is not easy to make these decisions,” Jolie wrote. “But it is possible to take control and tackle head-on any health issue. You can seek advice, learn about the options and make choices that are right for you. Knowledge is power.”
To read Angelina Jolie’s full op-ed, head over to the New York Times.