The 37-year-old mother of six explained the emotional and practical reasons behind why she opted for procedure in the New York Times.
In a self-written article entitled My Medical Choice, Jolie told readers her decision to have a preventive double mastectomy was motivated by the revelation that she was a carrier of the BRCA1 gene, which carries with it a heightened risk of developing potentially fatal breast and ovarian cancer.
The star’s doctors had estimated that she had an 87 per cent chance of developing breast cancer and a 50 per cent chance of falling victim to ovarian cancer – though the risk with both diseases differs from woman to woman.
The startling news set Jolie on a course to minimise the risks to her health as much as possible:
“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,” the Tomb Raider star wrote.
“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,” she added, emphasizing that she had no regrets about her decision.
The actress also made an emotional reference to the very personal experiences she has had with breast cancer, after watching her mother Marceline battle with the disease for almost a decade before it claimed her life at the age of 65.
“My mother fought cancer for almost a decade and died at 56. She held out long enough to meet the first of her grandchildren and to hold them in her arms. But my other children will never have the chance to know her and experience how loving and gracious she was…We often speak of “Mommy’s mommy,” and I find myself trying to explain the illness that took her away from us. They have asked if the same could happen to me,” Jolie, who has always maintained a very private personal life, revealed.
The actress was also full of praise for her partner, fellow actor Brad Pitt, thanking him for his love and support throughout the process: “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.”
Jolie hoped her very public announcement would see women benefit from her experience. She also urged her female readers to seek medical advice about their family history and explore all the options available to them.
“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 able to get gene tested, and that if they have a high risk they, too, will know that they have strong options.”
“Life comes with many challenges. The ones that should not scare us are the ones we can take on and take control of.”