American actress Angelina Jolie has undergone a preventative double mastectomy to minimise the risk of developing breast cancer. In an open letter to the New York Times, the 37-year-old explained she had inherited the BRCA1 gene from her mother, who died of the illness at the age of 56, and that the gene significantly increases the risk of getting breast cancer.
She notes that her doctors told her she had an 87% chance of developing breast cancer and 50% of ovarian cancer, adding that the risk differs for each woman. The double mastectomy involved three surgeries over almost three months, including reconstruction surgery with implants.
Women with the BRCA1 gene are sometimes advised to have their ovaries removed as well as their breasts. Cancer Research says that two in three women who have either the BRCA1 or 2 gene will get ovarian cancer by the age of 75. Jolie said she has not had her ovaries removed but has not ruled it out in future.
The Hollywood star said she hoped by coming out publicly other women who might not know they have cancer or a high risk of the disease will get their genes tested.
Written and presented by Alfred Joyner