Today an article was released on The New York Times written by Angelina Jolie. About two years ago she wrote about her decision to have elective surgery after being found to have the BRCA1 gene. She had an 83% chance of breast cancer and a 50% chance of ovarian cancer as a result. To fight this, she had a double mastectomy.
But in today’s article, she revealed that she has undergone surgery to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes. She wrote, “I had been planning this for some time. It is a less complex surgery than the mastectomy, but its effects are more severe. It puts a woman into forced menopause. 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.”
The brave decision was rushed though due to an unexpected test result. She wrote, “Then two weeks ago I got a call from my doctor with blood-test results. “Your CA-125 is normal,” he said. I breathed a sigh of relief. That test measures the amount of the protein CA-125 in the blood, and is used to monitor ovarian cancer. I have it every year because of my family history.
“But that wasn’t all. He went on. “There are a number of inflammatory markers that are elevated, and taken together they could be a sign of early cancer.” I took a pause. “CA-125 has a 50 to 75 percent chance of missing ovarian cancer at early stages,” he said. He wanted me to see the surgeon immediately to check my ovaries.
“I went through what I imagine thousands of other women have felt. 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.”
And within 24 hours she had seen the surgeon that treated her mother and had surgery to remove the ovaries and fallopian tubes just five days later.
The results after the surgery were a relief, “Last week, I had the procedure: a laparoscopic bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy. There was a small benign tumour on one ovary, but no signs of cancer in any of the tissues.” Angelina wrote.
Ultimately, Angelina Jolie made a choice at the age of 39 to undergo something that would change her life. “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’.”
Tell us, have you faced the same challenges as Angelina Jolie or do you know people who have? Do you admire her courage in making these decisions? Do you think you could make the same decisions that she has if in her position?