Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer.
Writing in The New York Times, the 39-year-old Jolie, who had a preventive double mastectomy two years ago, said she carries a mutation in a gene that gave her an estimated 87 percent risk of breast cancer and 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer. Both her mother and grandmother died of cancer.
Jolie said she went public with her decision so that women would know about options available to them.
Only a small percentage of women inherit the same faulty gene. These mutations are most commonly found in women of Eastern European Jewish descent, although other groups, including Norwegians, Dutch and Icelandics, also have slightly higher rates of the mutations.
"A positive [BRCA] test does not mean a leap to surgery. I have spoken to many doctors, surgeons and naturopaths. There are other options," she wrote. "The most important thing is to learn about the options and choose what is right for you personally."
The surgery showed no signs of cancer, she said, but it triggered early menopause, and she will not be able to have more children. She now has six.
"I feel feminine, and grounded in the choices I am making for myself and my family,'' said Jolie, who travels the globe as a United Nations ambassador for refugees. " I know my children will never have to say, 'Mom died of ovarian cancer.'"
The average woman has a 12 percent risk of developing breast cancer sometime during her life. Women who have inherited a faulty BRCA gene are about five times more likely to get breast cancer.