THE BLOG

Angelina Jolie, Revealing Your Ovary Removal Surgery Will Save Women's Lives

03/25/2015 10:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2015

Angelina -- going public with your decision to remove your ovaries and fallopian tubes after an ovarian cancer scare was both courageous and of great service to other women. Thank you.

Angelina Jolie, thank you for writing a very personal and very honest op-ed in the New York Times March 24 revealing that you recently had your ovaries and fallopian tubes removed.

Angelina Jolie's Ovary Removal Surgery -- Her Brave Move

Your purpose for the surgery was to reduce your risk of developing ovarian cancer, a particularly deadly form of cancer for women and the disease that took your own mother's life at the young age of 56.

You learned after your mother's untimely death, and the deaths of your grandmother and aunt from cancer, that you had inherited the BRCA1 gene mutation, which gave you an 87 percent risk of developing breast cancer and a 50 percent chance of developing ovarian cancer.

Sadly, ovarian cancer has a high mortality rate if it's not diagnosed until the later stages. Only 45 percent of women in this situation will survive for five years after diagnosis and ovarian cancer is one of those silent killers -- it usually has no symptoms until it has spread and it is very difficult to treat.

That's why writing a very open and honest piece about your decision and experience is so important. Over 20,000 American women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year.

In your case, you decided to have your breasts removed and reconstructed two years ago as a preventative measure because of your breast cancer risk and you have been monitored very closely for any signs that ovarian cancer was developing. Then, you wrote in your piece: "Two weeks ago I got a call from the doctor with blood test results." They were normal, but "there are a number of inflammatory markers that are elevated, and taken together they could be a sign of early cancer," you were told by your doctor.

Angelina Jolie On Her Cancer Scare & Choice To Remove Her Ovaries

It was news that you had feared hearing. "I went through what I imagine thousands of other women have felt. I told myself to stay strong, and that I had no reason to think I wouldn't live to see my children grow up and to meet my grandchildren," you wrote.

Angelina, at 39 -- with six children between the ages of 6 and 13, you knew what you had to do: make the arrangements to have your ovaries and fallopian tubes removed, just a week ago. Fortunately, it turned out that the surgery revealed a small tumor on one ovary, but it was benign and there were no signs of cancer in any of the tissues.

You now will be taking hormone replacements for the rest of your life, because removing the ovaries puts women into menopause, and of course now you also won't be able to conceive any more children.

Many women fear taking the preventative measures which you have chosen, even if they are at risk of cancer. That's why it's so important that you have been completely open about your choices. You are demonstrating that there is nothing to fear medically. There is nothing de-feminizing about having your breasts and/or ovaries removed, in order to save your health and even your life.

There is nothing disempowering about taking these measures.

Brad Pitt's Love & Support For Angelina Jolie

Your husband, Brad Pitt, 51, has lovingly been by your side every step of the way. And you have done your very best work ever in the past two years. You produced and directed the huge hit film Unbroken, and starred in Disney's biggest live action film ever -- Maleficent -- as well as continued your all-important humanitarian work as a U.N. Ambassador.

Your surgeries are enabling you to live a long, healthy life so that your children will "never have to say, 'Mom died of ovarian cancer,'" you wrote.

All of your sharing of your experiences will help other women who find themselves in similarly very difficult situations. As you said in your piece: "It is not easy to make those 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."

So true. And now, by sharing your private experiences, you are giving other women knowledge and therefore power.

-- Bonnie Fuller