- 07.16.13 03:43 PM EDT
Actress Angelina Jolie penned an op-ed about a difficulty and potentially life-saving decision, in the New York Times Tuesday morning. She wrote:
My doctors estimated that I had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer, although the risk is different in the case of each woman. Only a fraction of breast cancers result from an inherited gene mutation. Those with a defect in BRCA1 have a 65 percent risk of getting it, on average. Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much I could. I made a decision to have a preventive double mastectomy. I started with the breasts, as my risk of breast cancer is higher than my risk of ovarian cancer, and the surgery is more complex.
Jolie describes the surgery in her piece and then writes that while the decision wasn't an easy one, the procedure drops her risk of breast cancer to under five percent. Jolie's mother died of breast cancer when she was just 56.
There are nearly a quarter million new cases of invasive breast cancer in the US each year, and almost 40,000 women die from the disease annually.