In Depth

Angelina Jolie praised for going public about cancer surgery

Jolie's decision to talk about removing her ovaries to prevent cancer could save lives, say charities

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Angelina Jolie has been praised by charities for talking candidly about her decision to have major surgery to prevent cancer. 

Writing in the New York Times, the 39-year old actress and UN ambassador revealed that she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed following an ovarian cancer scare.

"We applaud Angelina Jolie's decision to announce that she has had preventative surgery," Katherine Taylor, acting chief executive of Ovarian Cancer Action told the Daily Telegraph. "Her bravery to announce this news publicly could save lives."

In 2013, Jolie had a preventative double mastectomy after a blood test revealed that she carried a mutation in the BRCA1 gene, giving her an 87 per cent chance of developing breast cancer and 50 per cent risk of ovarian cancer. She has lost her mother, grandmother and aunt to cancer.  

The consequences of her latest operation are severe; Jolie will no longer be able to have children and will be forced into early menopause.

"It is not easy to make these decisions," she writes."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".

She also said she wanted woman to know that a positive BRCA test does not mean "a leap" to surgery. "There is more than one way to deal with any health issue. The most important thing is to learn about the options and choose what is right for you personally."

After her mastectomy, doctors said that her decision to go public had sparked the "Jolie Effect", with referrals to breast cancer clinics more than doubling in the UK.

Her openness "may have lessened patients' fears about a loss of sexual identity post-preventative surgery and encouraged those who had not previously engaged with health services to consider genetic testing," professor Gareth Evans, who led a study into the effect, told the BBC.

Ovarian cancer is the most deadly form of cancer for women in the UK, with 7,000 new diagnoses each year. Health experts agree that her latest decision will likely encourage even more people to come forward for genetic testing.

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