Oscar-winning actress Angelina Jolie said Tuesday that she had undergone a preventive double mastectomy after finding out she had a gene mutation that leads to a sharply higher risk of both breast and ovarian cancer.
Jolie, writing in the New York Times, said her mother's death from cancer at 56 and the discovery that she carried the BRCA1 gene mutation led to her decision out of fears she might not be around for her six children.
"We often speak of 'Mommy's mommy,' and I find myself trying to explain the illness that took her away from us. They have asked if the same could happen to me," wrote Jolie, 37, in the editorial "My Medical Choice."
"I have always told them not to worry, but the truth is I carry a 'faulty' gene," she added.
Her doctor estimated that she had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer.
"Once I knew this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much as I could. I made a decision to have a preventive double mastectomy," she said.
Three months of surgical procedures were completed at the end of April, throughout which Jolie continued to work. She said her partner, Brad Pitt, was by her side throughout, and thanked him for his love and support.
She said she was revealing her decision to help dispel the shadows that still hang over cancer and to enable other women to get testing and make informed treatment choices, as she had.
"The decision to have a mastectomy was not easy. But it is one I am very happy to have made," she said, adding that her chances of developing breast cancer had dropped from 87 percent to 5 percent.
Spokesmen for Jolie and Pitt, one of Hollywood's biggest power couples, were not immediately available for comment.
Jolie, who won a best support actress Oscar for her work on "Girl, Interrupted" in 1999, is raising six children with Pitt. The couple got engaged last year.
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