You've likely heard today about Angelina Jolie Pitt's New York Times essay regarding her decision to have her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed. Women who carry mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes have a significantly increased risk for breast and ovarian cancer; Jolie carries such a mutation, and in 2013 she shared publicly her decision to have her breasts removed to reduce her risk of cancer.
Jolie Pitt shares her decision-making process and notes that though she won't be able to have any more children and though she still remains prone to cancer, she feels "at ease with whatever will come." She closes her latest essay by writing, "It is not easy to make these 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."
After reading the piece I reached out to Stanford cancer geneticist Allison Kurian, MD, who told me:
Angelina Jolie made a very courageous decision to share her experience publicly. The surgery she chose is strongly recommended for all women with BRCA1/2 mutations by age 40, since it's the only way to prevent an ovarian cancer in these high-risk women, and early detection doesn't work. This is a life-saving intervention for high-risk women.
Kurian is associate director of the Stanford Program in Clinical Cancer Genetics and a member of the Stanford Cancer Institute. In 2012 she published on online tool to help women with BRCA mutations understand their treatment options.
Previously: Helping inform tough cancer-related decisions, NIH Director highlights Stanford research on breast cancer surgery choices and Breast cancer patients are getting more bilateral mastectomies – but not any survival benefit
Photo by Marco Musso