Angelina Jolie has taken another step in her own cancer prevention, but her New York Times op-ed isn’t advocating it for everyone.
After having an elective double mastectomy two years ago, the Jolie has now had her ovaries and fallopian tubes surgically removed, and she wants everyone to know why.
Jolie explains in the article that the same BRCA1 gene mutation that makes her more prone to getting breast cancer also gives her a 50 percent chance of developing ovarian cancer.
After getting her mastectomy, Jolie researched alternative medicine and treatments in hopes that she wouldn’t need the second surgery to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes. The second procedure would not only end Jolie’s ability to birth more children, but also force her into early menopause. Unfortunately, a recent blood test scared her enough to schedule the surgery.
However, Jolie is adamant that women who also test positive for the BRCA1 gene do not have to jump automatically to surgery. Though the surgery is recommended before women who test positive for the gene turn 40 — she’s 39 — it’s not the only option.
“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,” Jolie writes.
Surgery became the best option for Jolie, not only because of her age, but also because she has a family history of cancer. She lost her grandmother, mother and aunt to cancer, which makes her chances of developing tumors that much more severe.
Jolie’s choice to write about her surgery is to educate women who find out they have the gene mutation much earlier than she did. She recognizes the decision to have these surgeries is much more agonizing for younger women who haven’t had the chance to have children yet, and she wants them to know they have options.
“I inquired and found out that there are options for women to remove their fallopian tubes but keep their ovaries, and so retain the ability to bear children and not go into menopause. I hope they can be aware of that,” Jolie explains.
She encourages all women to be proactive about their health and take the necessary steps to find the options that fit best for them and their lifestyle.
“It is not easy to make these decisions. 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.”