Angelina Jolie

Quick Hit: Angelina Jolie writes about her double mastectomy, preventing breast cancer

Angelina JolieAngelina Jolie published a op-ed in this morning’s New York Times detailing her double mastectomy. Because of her family history of breast and ovarian cancer, Jolie chose to investigate her own risk through genetic testing. When her doctor determined she had an “87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer,” the actress and director decided to undergo a preventative double mastectomy, reducing her chances of cancer significantly.

Jolie’s piece is more than a personal narrative that denies stigma its power–though it certainly is that, too, and a particularly powerful confession given Hollywood’s obsession with the perfect, young female body. Jole wrote the op-ed, she explains, so other women will be aware of their choices. And though she doesn’t claim that her decision is the only right  one, she highlights just how constrained these choices are for many:

I wanted to write this to tell other women that the decision to have a mastectomy was not easy. But it is one I am very happy that I made. My chances of developing breast cancer have dropped from 87 percent to under 5 percent. I can tell my children that they don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer…

On a personal note, 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…

For any woman reading this, I hope it helps you to know you have options. I want to encourage every woman, especially if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, to seek out the information and medical experts who can help you through this aspect of your life, and to make your own informed choices…

Breast cancer alone kills some 458,000 people each year, according to the World Health Organization, mainly in low- and middle-income countries. It has got to be a priority to ensure that more women can access gene testing and lifesaving preventive treatment, whatever their means and background, wherever they live. The cost of testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2, at more than $3,000 in the United States, remains an obstacle for many women.

I hope everyone with a family history of breast cancer (cis and trans men can be diagnosed as well!) will take a page out of Jolie’s book if they can afford to do so, and that these options will soon be universally available. (That’s why medical organizations are calling on the Supreme Court to rule that the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes can’t be patented.) Not all of us, of course, get to write about our “partner, Brad Pitt, who is so loving and supportive.”

You can read the full article here.

Washington, DC

Alexandra Brodsky was a senior editor at During her four years at the site, she wrote about gender violence, reproductive justice, and education equity and ran the site's book review column. She is now a Skadden Fellow at the National Women's Law Center and also serves as the Board Chair of Know Your IX, a national student-led movement to end gender violence, which she co-founded and previously co-directed. Alexandra has written for publications including the New York Times, the Atlantic, the Guardian, and the Nation, and she is the co-editor of The Feminist Utopia Project: 57 Visions of a Wildly Better Future. She has spoken about violence against women and reproductive justice at campuses across the country and on MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, ESPN, and NPR.

Alexandra Brodsky was a senior editor at

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