Sophie Wilkinson | Contributing Editor | Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Angelina Jolie Has Ovaries And Fallopian Tubes Removed After Cancer Scare

Angelina Jolie Has Ovaries And Fallopian Tubes Removed After Cancer Scare

The Debrief: She’s gone public with her operation to educate the wider public about the sadly necessary procedure so many other women have to face...

Two years after Angelina Jolie went public about her double mastectomy – done as a preventative measure against cancer after she tested positive for a gene that increased her risk of it by 87% – she’s gone public about the operation she had to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes.

Writing in The New York Times, she said that she’d long been planning the removal of her ovaries and fallopian tubes – they are at risk from the cancer the gene mutation BRCA1 can cause – but that the decision to remove them was very sudden.

The surgeon who did it had also been Angelina’s mother’s surgeon. Angelina’s mother also carried the BRCA1 genetic mutation, and died of ovarian cancer aged 56.

‘I last saw her the day my mother passed away, and she teared up when she saw me: “You look just like her.” I broke down. But we smiled at each other and agreed we were there to deal with any problem, so “let’s get on with it.”’

She took a test to see if she had a tumour, and it was negative but, ‘There was still a chance of early stage cancer, but that was minor compared with a full-blown tumour. To my relief, I still had the option of removing my ovaries and fallopian tubes and I chose to do it.’ The removal puts a woman into ‘forced menopause’.

Angelina points out that having the gene didn’t mean she had to take this decision; there are other ways that other women with BRCA1 can deal with having the gene. She did so ‘because on top of the BRCA gene, three women in my family have died from cancer.’

So she had the operation, the ‘laparoscopic bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy’. The result? ‘I am now in menopause. I will not be able to have any more children, and I expect some physical changes. 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.’

And it was acknowledged that there are women far younger than Angelina who have to go through this operation.

‘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.’

 Angelina’s body belongs to no-one but her, and all her medical treatment is entirely private. So the way she’s talking about it so publicly, letting the world know – once again – that imminent cancer threats know no bounds, and educating people about BRCA1 – well, it’s nothing short of amazing.

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Tags: Health, Angelina Jolie