Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie told the world this week that she had had another operation to reduce her chance of getting cancer.
On Tuesday, the 39-year-old actress published a piece in The New York Times. She wrote about her decision to have her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to protect herself from ovarian cancer. She did not have her uterus removed, as she has no family history of uterine cancer.
Two years ago, doctors performed a double mastectomy on the star. Jolie also wrote a piece for The New York Times about the decision to remove both her breasts.
Jolie took that action after discovering she carried a mutation in the BRCA1 gene. This put her at a very high risk of getting breast cancer. The same mutation also gave her a 50 percent risk of getting ovarian cancer. Jolie’s mother, aunt and grandmother all died of cancer.
The actress said she wrote about her decision so that women would know about what treatments are available to them. She noted that surgery may not be the best choice for every woman. She wrote: "The most important thing is to learn about the options and choose what is right for you personally."
Carol Brown of the Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York agrees. There are many treatment possibilities to consider. Dr. Brown says women with mutated genes who get preventative surgery have a 98 percent chance of staying cancer free.
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.
Only a small percentage of women inherit the same mutated gene similar to Jolie’s. These mutations are most commonly found in women of Eastern European Jewish descent. However other groups, including Norwegians, Dutch and Icelandics, also have slightly higher rates of the mutations.
The surgery showed no signs of cancer in any of the tissue removed. But it has ended Jolie’s ability to have more children. She wrote that she has entered menopause.
Angelina Jolie wrote that she is at peace with her decisions. “I know my children will never have to say, 'Mom died of ovarian cancer,'" she wrote in The Times. Ms. Jolie has six children with her husband, actor Brad Pitt.
Caty Weaver wrote this story for VOA Learning English from a Reuters report. VOA correspondent George Putic provided additional information.
Words in This Story
mastectomy – n. surgical removal of all or part of the breast and sometimes associated lymph nodes and muscles
mutation – n. a change in the genes of a plant or animal that causes physical characteristics that are different from what is normal
option – n. the opportunity or ability to choose something or to choose between two or more things
inherit – v. biology: to get a characteristic, disease, etc., because of the genes that you get from your parents when you are born
menopause – n. the time in a woman's life when blood stops flowing from her body each month