I had the genetic test for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes one year ago because my mother and two of my maternal aunt battle breast cancer in their lifetimes. I only told my mother because I didn’t want to alarm my daughters if the results were alarming. The wait was unbearable because if the testing showed I had a high risk of breast cancer, I would have to make some hard decisions. I don’t have the gene for breast or ovarian cancer but actress and director Angelina Jolie does and she decided to have preventive mastectomy for the sake of her children and her partner, Brad Pitt.
"My mother fought cancer for almost a decade and died at 56," Jolie writes. "She held out long enough to meet the first of her grandchildren and to hold them in her arms. But my other children will never have the chance to know her and experience how loving and gracious she was."
Jolie said she has kept the process private so far, but wrote about with hopes of helping other women. "I wanted to write this to tell other women that the decision to have a mastectomy was not easy," she writes. "But it is one I am very happy that I made. My chances of developing breast cancer have dropped from 87 percent to under 5 percent. I can tell my children that they don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer."
She is a very private person, yet she provided a step-by-step description of the procedures. She writes that between early February and late April she completed three months of surgical procedures to remove both breasts. "My doctors estimated that I had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer, although the risk is different in each woman," she writes today in a New York Times op-ed. "Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much as I could."
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