Angelina Jolie has revealed that she had surgery to remove her ovaries and Fallopian tubes in her ongoing quest to reduce her high risk of developing cancer.
As you will remember, Jolie underwent a double mastectomy two years ago after it was revealed that she stands a high risk of developing both breast and ovarian cancers because she had a defective BRCA gene. Back then, there were reports that the actress was planning to remove her ovaries also … and now she says she finally did it last week.
In an op-ed for the New York Times, Jolie writes:
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.
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.
Jolie also states that she went through other tests (PET/CT scan, tumor test, ultrasound) to determine if there were any developing cancers and they all turned out negative. But ‘there was still a chance of early stage cancer … I still had the option of removing my ovaries and fallopian tubes and I chose to do it.’
The actress, however, was quick to add:
I did not do this solely because I carry the BRCA1 gene mutation, and I want other women to hear this. A positive BRCA test does not mean a leap to surgery.
In my case, the Eastern and Western doctors I met agreed that surgery to remove my tubes and ovaries was the best option, because on top of the BRCA gene, three women in my family [her aunt, grandmother and mother] have died from cancer. My doctors indicated I should have preventive surgery about a decade before the earliest onset of cancer in my female relatives. My mother’s ovarian cancer was diagnosed when she was 49. I’m 39.
Jolie says the surgical operation, a laparoscopic bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy, was conducted last week, and surgeons found ‘a small benign tumor on one ovary, but no signs of cancer in any of the tissues.’
As a result of the operation, Jolie is now in early menopause. She now takes hormonal replacements and has one IUD inserted in her uterus to prevent uterine cancer. She decided to keep her uterus because there is no family history of uterine cancer.