Jolie wrote that she made the decision to have the surgery in part as a result of a previous discovery of a mutation she carries on the BRCA1 gene, which indicated that she had a high risk of developing both breast and ovarian cancer. Her mother, grandmother, and aunt all died from cancer.
The actress made a similar revelation in 2013, when she wrote another NYT op-ed about having a preventive double mastectomy, also a result of her BRCA1 test. This time around, Jolie said, she had been planning to have her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed as a preventive measure, but the results from another round of testing (of CA-125, a protein found in blood) just two weeks ago revealed that she was showing signs of "early cancer," and she decided that the surgery should happen immediately.
Jolie stated that her choice to have surgery was not the only option available, and wrote that all women facing a similar course of action should decide what's best for them. As a result of the procedure, Jolie is now in menopause, cannot have any more children, and will have to take hormone replacements for the rest of her life.
"It is not possible to remove all risk, and the fact is I remain prone to cancer," Jolie writes. " ... 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."
For more from the filmmaker, read the entire op-ed here.
I feel deeply for women for whom this moment comes very early in life, before they have had their children. Their situation is far harder than mine. 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.
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.
Photo credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez via Getty Images