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Angelina Jolie Writes About Removal Of Ovaries, Fallopian Tubes To Prevent Cancer

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Angelina Jolie at the Japanese premiere of Maleficent last year (Getty Images)
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Two years ago, Angelina Jolie Pitt wrote a NY Times op-ed about her decision to have a double mastectomy. The decision was made after a test revealed she had the BRCA1 gene, which means she's at a high risk for breast cancer and has a 50% chance of getting ovarian cancer—she has noted that her mother, grandmother and aunt died of cancer. In a new op-ed, published today, she's continuing to share her story.

I wanted other women at risk to know about the options. I promised to follow up with any information that could be useful, including about my next preventive surgery, the removal of my ovaries and fallopian tubes. 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.

In my case, the Eastern and Western doctors I met agreed that surgery to remove my tubes and ovaries was the best option, because on top of the BRCA gene, three women in my family have died from cancer. My doctors indicated I should have preventive surgery about a decade before the earliest onset of cancer in my female relatives. My mother’s ovarian cancer was diagnosed when she was 49. I’m 39.

After the surgery, a benign tumor on an ovary was found.Jolie said that she decided to keep her uterus, since there wasn't a family history of uterine cancer, "It is not possible to remove all risk, and the fact is I remain prone to cancer. I will look for natural ways to strengthen my immune system. I feel feminine, and grounded in the choices I am making for myself and my family. I know my children will never have to say, 'Mom died of ovarian cancer.'"

Researchers found that after Jolie Pitt's 2013 op-ed about BRCA testing, more women got genetic testing—a professor from the University of Manchester said, "The Angelina Jolie effect has been long-lasting and global, and appears to have increased referrals to centers appropriately." Professor Gareth Evans also noted that "Jolie stating she has a BRCA1 mutation and going on to have a risk-reducing mastectomy is likely to have had a bigger impact than other celebrity . This may have lessened patients' fears about a loss of sexual identity post-preventative surgery and encouraged those who had not previously engaged with health services to consider genetic testing."

Here's information about BRCA1 testing from the National Cancer Institute. It's important to note that while some estimates for the testing are as high as $3,000, those numbers may actually be lower depending on your insurance coverage.