Two years after Angelina Jolie had a double mastectomy to prevent the onset of breast cancer, the actress has revealed that she has since had her ovaries removed due to a second health scare. The 39-year-old Maleficent star published a lengthy opinion piece, titled Angelina Jolie Pitt: Diary Of A Surgery in the New York Times on Monday explaining her decision.
With her ovaries and Fallopian tubes now gone, the mother-of-six has entered early menopause and will not be able to have any more children, she writes in her candid, deeply personal essay.
In May 2013, Brad Pitt’s wife famously had her breasts surgically removed after she found out she was carrying a genetic mutation that greatly increased her risk of potentially fatal breast cancer. In the op-ed piece, Jolie explains that the mutation in the BRCA1 gene gave her an estimated 87 per cent risk of breast cancer and 50 per cent risk of ovarian cancer. She lost her mother, grandmother and aunt to cancer. Her mother Marcheline Bertrand died in January 2007 at the age of 56 after an eight-year battle with ovarian cancer.
Jolie has previously spoken of the void in her life that her mother’s death had left – a pain that led her to taking the brave decision to have a double mastectomy, so her children may not have to experience the pain she did.
According to Jolie, she had been planning to undergo surgery to remove her ovaries and Fallopian tubes for a while now, but a call from her doctor two weeks ago made the procedure more urgent.
A blood test detected potential anomalies linked to the protein CA-125, which is used to monitor ovarian cancer, Jolie’s doctor told her, urging the actress to see her surgeon, who also had treated her late mother.
‘I went through what I imagine thousands of other women have felt. I told myself to stay calm, to be strong, and that I had no reason to think I wouldn’t live to see my children grow up and to meet my grandchildren,’ she writes.
Brad Pitt was in France when he got the call from his wife of seven months about her new health scare, prompting him to hop on a plane and return at once to Los Angeles to be by her side.
After undergoing a battery of tests and scans, Jolie got the good news that she was still cancer-free.
‘To my relief, I still had the option of removing my ovaries and Fallopian tubes and I chose to do it,’ she writes.
Last week, Hollywood’s leading lady went under the knife, undergoing what is known as a laparoscopic bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy.
Jolie revealed that one of her ovaries did have a small tumor on it but it turned out to be benign, and there were no signs of cancer in the tissues.
She noted that she chose to keep her uterus because there is no history of uterine cancer in her family.
To counteract the loss of her ovaries, Jolie turned to hormone replacement therapy and had an IUD inserted in her womb, but she says in the essay that her child-bearing years are now behind her.
‘Regardless of the hormone replacements I’m taking, I am now in menopause,’ she writes. ‘I will not be able to have any more children, and I expect some physical changes. But I feel at ease with whatever will come, not because I am strong but because this is a part of life. It is nothing to be feared.’
When Jolie underwent a double mastectomy two years ago, doctors have noticed an uptick in patients electing to undergo the preventive surgery – even if they did not need it.
In her op-ed piece Monday, the UN envoy made it clear that her decision to have her ovaries removed was not solely based on the BRCA1 gene mutation, adding that there are other, non-surgical options out there for women, such as birth control pills, alternative treatments and frequent checks-up.
But taking into account her family’s history, Jolie said undergoing the operation was the best option for her.
‘There is more than one way to deal with any health issue,’ she states in the Times piece. ‘The most important thing is to learn about the options and choose what is right for you personally.’
Mrs Jolie Pitt points out that surgery has not eliminated her natural predisposition for cancer, but it has taken at least one type of the deadly disease out of the equation.
‘I know my children will never have to say, “Mom died of ovarian cancer,’” she writes.