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Angelina Jolie, arguably one of the world's most famous actresses, lost her mother to ovarian cancer in 2007. After learning that she also has a predisposition to breast and ovarian cancer, thanks to genetic testing for a mutated BRCA1 gene, Jolie made the decision to have a preventative double mastectomy to lower her chances of developing breast cancer.

She revealed the details of this three-month process in an op-ed for the New York Times to spread the message that other people who have similar predispositions have options and can be empowered to take charge of their own health.

As Jolie notes, "Breast cancer alone kills some 458,000 people each year, according to the World Health Organization, mainly in low- and middle-income countries." Unfortunately, as she mentions, the genetic tests for mutations in the RCA1 and BRCA2 genes are prohibitively expensive for many. Anyone who has wrestled with insurance companies knows that preventative care can be hard to come by. Preventative surgery of this nature is not necessarily the right choice for every person, but the information and reassurance that Jolie provides is invaluable.

Jolie's article will also, hopefully, help others to feel less shameful about their own treatments and surgeries, and to feel hopeful about their prospects. After undergoing the surgery, she reports, "My chances of developing breast cancer have dropped from 87 percent to under 5 percent." In regards to the reconstructive surgery, "There have been many advances in this procedure in the last few years, and the results can be beautiful."

The tabloids follow Angelina Jolie's every move, along with her partner Brad Pitt and their children, so it seems that some sort of speculation would be inevitable. Kudos to Jolie for taking charge of her public image, in addition to her health, and spreading the word of empowerment to women facing cancer.

[via NY Times]