When Angelina Jolie wrote an op-ed in the New York Times last year about the mastectomy she underwent to lessen her chances of breast cancer and ovarian cancer, most of the world applauded her decision.
Jolie, who carries the BRCA1 gene, which is associated with a higher increased risk of either cancer, and whose mother died at age 56 from ovarian cancer, underwent three months worth of mastectomy procedures in 2013. This week, she told Entertainment Weekly she is preparing for more.
"There’s still another surgery to have, which I haven’t yet," she told the publication. "I’ll, you know, I’ll get advice from all these wonderful people who I’ve been talking to, to get through that next stage."
Jolie is likely referring to surgery to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes to prevent the risk of ovarian cancer. The doctors had put her risk for breast cancer at 87 per cent, and her risk of ovarian cancer at 50 per cent.
While surgery is an extreme measure to take, the National Cancer Institute notes it can eliminate sources of hormones that might also cause breast cancer.
Since Jolie's letter was published, doctors have seen an increase in women asking about their own risks, reports Boston.com. While it hasn't necessarily resulted in more diagnoses of breast cancer, it has allowed doctors to identify other potential cancer risks from family histories.
In December 2013, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommended women with family members who had breast, ovarian, fallopian tube, or peritoneal cancer were the best candidates for evaluation. In Canada, the cost of the test is covered by provincial governments as long as the patient qualifies — which usually means two or more blood relatives who have had or have breast or ovarian cancer, according to the CBC.
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