Angelina Jolie has had both her breasts surgically removed after learning that she carries the gene BRCA1, which sharply raises the risk of breast and ovarian cancer. "My doctors estimated that I had an 87% risk of breast cancer and a 50% risk of ovarian cancer," Jolie, whose mother died from cancer at the age of 56, writes in a New York Times op-ed explaining her decision. The choice wasn't easy, she writes, but "my chances of developing breast cancer have dropped from 87% to under 5%. I can tell my children that they don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer."
"I do not feel any less of a woman. I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity," she writes, praising partner Brad Pitt, who was with her during the surgeries. She says she hopes sharing her story will encourage women to get tested, though she notes that the $3,000 cost will be an obstacle for many. "I choose not to keep my story private because there are many women who do not know that they might be living under the shadow of cancer," she writes. "It is my hope that they, too, will be able to get gene tested, and that if they have a high risk they, too, will know that they have strong options." Click for Jolie's full column.