In an op-ed for the New York Times, Angelina broke down why she decided to have her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed in a recent surgery. A while ago, she found out through a "simple blood test" that she carried a mutation in the BRCA1 gene. "It gave me an estimated 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer," she wrote. "I lost my mother, grandmother and aunt to cancer."
Because of the cancer history in her family, the Maleficent star said she had been planning her latest surgery for quite some time. "It is a less complex surgery than the mastectomy, but its effects are more severe. It puts a woman into forced menopause," she continued. "So I was readying myself physically and emotionally, discussing options with doctors, researching alternative medicine, and mapping my hormones for estrogen or progesterone replacement. But I felt I still had months to make the date."
Two weeks ago, though, she got a call from her doctor about her blood-test results. Although her CA-125 – which is used to monitor ovarian cancer – was normal, she had some "inflammatory markers" that "could've been a sign of early cancer."
"I went through what I imagine thousands of other women have felt," she went on. "I told myself to stay calm, to be strong, and that I had no reason to think I wouldn't live to see my children grow up and to meet my grandchildren."
She called her husband, Brad Pitt, who hopped on a plane from France "within hours" to be by her side, and went to see her surgeon the same day. She later got results that revealed her tumor test was negative and her PET/CT scan was clear, but there was still a chance she had early stage cancer. "To my relief, I still had the option of removing my ovaries and fallopian tubes and I chose to do it," she continued.
So, she did. "I did not do this solely because I carry the BRCA1 gene mutation, and I want other women to hear this. A positive BRCA test does not mean a leap to surgery," she added. "In my case, the Eastern and Western doctors I met agreed that surgery to remove my tubes and ovaries was the best option, because on top of the BRCA gene, three women in my family have died from cancer. My doctors indicated I should have preventive surgery about a decade before the earliest onset of cancer in my female relatives. My mother's ovarian cancer was diagnosed when she was 49. I'm 39."
She is now taking hormone replacements to help her maintain a hormonal balance, but said, "Regardless of the hormone replacements I'm taking, I am now in menopause."
"I will not be able to have any more children, and I expect some physical changes," she continued. "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."
"It is not possible to remove all risk, and the fact is I remain prone to cancer. I will look for natural ways to strengthen my immune system. I feel feminine, and grounded in the choices I am making for myself and my family. I know my children will never have to say, 'Mom died of ovarian cancer.'"