Angelina Jolie says she had double mastectomy

LOS ANGELES - Angelina Jolie told the world Tuesday she underwent a double mastectomy to stave off breast cancer, the disease that killed her mother at the age of 56.

"I choose not to keep my story private because there are many women who do not know that they might be living under the shadow of cancer," Jolie wrote in an article published in the opinion section of The New York Times.

"It is my hope that they, too, will be able to get gene tested, and that if they have a high risk they, too, will know that they have strong options."

The 37-year-old actress opted for the surgery, she wrote, after learning that she carries a defective gene, BRCA1, prompting her doctors to estimate she had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer.

The procedures at the Pink Lotus Breast Center in Beverly Hills spanned three months and culminated late last month with reconstructive surgery involving implants.

Her partner, Brad Pitt, "was at the Pink Lotus Breast Center ... for every minute of the surgeries," she wrote. "We managed to find moments to laugh together. We knew this was the right thing to do for our family and that it would bring us closer. And it has."

In a statement to the Weekly Standard, Pitt said, "I find Angie's choice, as well as so many others like her, absolutely heroic. All I want is for her to have a long and healthy life, with myself and our children. This is a happy day for our family."

Jolie's mother, Marcheline Bertrand, died in 2007.

The chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society issued a statement saying women should consult with their doctors before opting for surgery.

"While only a small number of breast cancers are linked to known genetic risk factors, women facing such a high risk seem to know that, and need to be able to discuss their options with genetic specialists and knowledgeable health professionals so they can have all the information and expertise at their fingertips to do what's right for them," Otis W. Brawley said. "This does not mean every woman needs a blood test to determine their genetic risk for breast and/or ovarian cancer."

He said that even if testing confirms that women have genetic risks, it doesn't always mean surgery is necessary.

"Experts recommend women proceed cautiously, and receive a second opinion before deciding to have this surgery," Brawley said.

Dr. Kristi Funk, founder and medical director of Pink Lotus Breast Center, told a throng of reporters outside the Beverly Hills facility the center "applauds Angelina Jolie's bold choices."

"And we hope that the awareness she is raising around the world will save countless lives," she said.

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