Angelina Jolie Pitt has played the strong heroine in many of her movies. And once again in real life she has been a strong role model for women.
Pitt has a mutation of the BRCA1 gene. Because of this, her doctor told her that she had an estimated 87 percent breast cancer risk, and a 50 percent ovarian cancer risk based on her blood test results.
Her grandmother, her aunt and her mother have died from cancer.
Because of her high risk for breast cancer, Pitt had a preventative double mastectomy two years ago. It reduced her breast cancer risk from 87 percent to 5 percent, according to doctors.
She was vocal and visible back then, wanting to be an encouragement to other women. She wanted to be a catalyst for more information and more discussion about options for women faced with these types of cancers.
Since Pitt recently had preventative surgery to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes, she has written an op-ed for the New York Times on March 24, 2015.
Her decision to have the surgery had been made some time ago. After she learned that tests showed elevated inflammatory markers that could indicate early cancer, she decided that now was the time.
Pitt’s doctors had advised her to have surgery while she was still 10 years younger than her female relatives had been when they were diagnosed with cancer. Her mother had been diagnosed at 49 years of age, and died seven years after that. Pitt is 39 years old.
Her husband, Brad, flew home from France to be by her side.
"The beautiful thing about such moments in life is that there is so much clarity. You know what you live for and what matters. It is polarizing, and it is peaceful," Pitt said.
She saw the same female surgeon who had treated Pitt's mother. In March 2015, Pitt had a laparoscopic bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy. The surgery has left her in early menopause.
She uses a clear patch containing bio-identical estrogen and a progesterone IUD to improve hormone balance and to help reduce her risk for uterine cancer.
"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,'"Pitt mused in her op-ed.
She emphasized that while surgery was the best choice for her in her particular situation, surgery is not necessarily the only option for other women with a BRCA1 gene mutation.
“A positive BRCA test does not mean a leap to surgery. I have spoken to many doctors, surgeons and naturopaths. There are other options. Some women take birth control pills or rely on alternative medicines combined with frequent checks."
A mere 20 percent of ovarian cancers are found early, according to the American Cancer Society. It kills more women than any other female reproductive system cancer.
Women with BRCA gene mutation have as much as 50 percent greater risk for this type of cancer. By the time it's discovered, it's often too late for a cure.
The National Comprehensive Cancer Network, and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists caution women with BRCA1 mutations to have their ovaries and fallopian tubes removed by 40 years old, and those with BRCA2 mutations to have them removed by the time they are 45 years of age reported Time magazine.
Pitt ended her New York Times op-ed with this food for thought, "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 Jolie Pitt: Diary of a Surgery
Angelina Jolie Removes Ovaries After Possible Early Signs of Cancer
Why Angelina Jolie Chose to Have Her Ovaries Removed
Angelina Jolie has ovaries, fallopian tubes removed to cut cancer risk
Visit Jody's website at http://www.ncubator.ca
Reviewed March 24, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN