Expert Opinions On Angelina Jolie’s Decision To Remove Her Ovaries
It is now 2 years after a double mastectomy, actress Angelina Jolie has had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed in order to avoid the risk of ovarian cancer. Jolie, 39, carries a mutation in the BRCA1 gene that increases her risk for breast and ovarian cancer. Her mother died of ovarian cancer at the age of 56. Recently, she had the surgery last week after blood tests showed what could have been early signs of the disease.
The Hollywood star received some praise from Cancer specialists:
“My hat is off to her, she is doing a lot of good for women worldwide by raising awareness of BRCA testing and options women have.”-Dr. Robert DeBernardo, a gynecologic oncologist at the Cleveland Clinic’s Ob/Gyn & Women’s Health Institute.
“It was incredibly courageous,” said Dr. Marleen Meyers, an assistant professor of medicine at NYU Langone’s Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center.
Jolie went public with this decision in order to spread the word to women about what options there are available.
“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.”
“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.'” – Jolie
Doctors hoped Jolie’s latest announcement would spark important discussions among patients to improve access to risk-reducing surgery for people who would benefit from it.
A study by information and advocacy group AARP found that BRCA testing rates increased nearly 40 percent beginning with Jolie’s May 2013 announcement, from an average of 350 per week to 500. They remained elevated for the rest of the year.
So as it stands, Jolie’s openness has helped get more people to have genetic testing, consider prophylactic surgery and talk openly about menopause and hormone replacement therapy.
“I think the most important thing to come out of this is going to be a decrease in fear and an increase in dialog,” she added.
Surgery to remove the ovaries and fallopian tubes to reduce the risk of cancer has become an option more women are choosing. Note that it does not completely eliminate the risk of the disease because ovarian cancer can also strike the cells that line the abdomen.
“A person with a BRCA mutation who has risk-reducing surgery still has residual ovarian cancer risk in the neighborhood of 3 to 4 percent,” said Knight.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says about 20,000 women get ovarian cancer, and about 14,500 die from it every year in the United States.