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Angelina Jolie Writes About Her Decision to Have a Preventative Double Mastectomy and Commitment to Family

Photo of Beth Hanna By Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood May 14, 2013 at 11:58AM

The New York Times published an op-ed piece by Angelina Jolie this morning, in which she articulately explains her reasoning for undergoing a preventative double mastectomy, a process that has taken the past three months to complete. Jolie's mother died from cancer at age 56, and, after consulting doctors, Jolie confronted the reality that genetically she had an 87% risk of breast cancer, and a 50% risk of ovarian cancer. Now, "I can tell my children they don't need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer, " Jolie writes. Highlights from the essay below.
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Angelina Jolie
COURTESY OF GETTY Angelina Jolie

The New York Times published an op-ed piece by Angelina Jolie Tuesday morning, in which she articulately explains her reasoning for undergoing a preventative double mastectomy, a process that has taken the past three months to complete. Jolie's mother died from cancer at age 56, and, after consulting doctors, Jolie confronted the reality that genetically she had an 87% risk of breast cancer, and a 50% risk of ovarian cancer. Now, "I can tell my children they don't need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer, " Jolie writes. Highlights from the essay below.

Meanwhile, Brad Pitt made a statement to the London Evening Standard, saying that Jolie's decision was "absolutely heroic," and that "this is a happy day for our family."

On the process of a double mastectomy:

I had the major surgery, where the breast tissue is removed and temporary fillers are put in place. The operation can take eight hours. You wake up with drain tubes and expanders in your breasts. It does feel like a scene out of a science-fiction film. But days after surgery you can be back to a normal life.

Nine weeks later, the final surgery is completed with the reconstruction of the breasts with an implant. There have been many advances in this procedure in the last few years, and the results can be beautiful.

On talking with her children about the possibility of cancer:

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. I have always told them not to worry, but the truth is I carry a “faulty” gene, BRCA1, which sharply increases my risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

On the importance of a support system:

I am fortunate to have a partner, Brad Pitt, who is so loving and supportive. So to anyone who has a wife or girlfriend going through this, know that you are a very important part of the transition. Brad was at the Pink Lotus Breast Center, where I was treated, for every minute of the surgeries. 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.

On the priority of gene testing, and the cost barrier that still exists:

It has got to be a priority to ensure that more women can access gene testing and lifesaving preventive treatment, whatever their means and background, wherever they live. The cost of testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2, at more than $3,000 in the United States, remains an obstacle for many women.

This article is related to: News, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, News


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.