CANCER charities last night praised actress Angelina Jolie for choosing preventative surgery to reduce her risk of dying from the disease.
The Hollywood star revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed last week, just two years after having a double mastectomy.
The actress carries a mutation in the BRCA1 gene meaning she had a 50 per cent chance of developing ovarian cancer, which killed her mother, Marcheline Bertrand, in 2007.
Katherine Taylor, acting chief executive of Ovarian Cancer Action, said Jolie’s decision could “save lives”.
“We applaud Angelina Jolie’s decision to announce that she has had preventative surgery for ovarian cancer and are anticipating another wave of the ‘Angelina effect’, which saw a dramatic increase in the number of women referred for genetic testing after Angelina announced that she had undergone a double mastectomy in 2013.
“While all women in the UK have a one in 54 chance of developing ovarian cancer, for those with a mutation in their BRAC1/2 genes, like Angelina Jolie, the risk increases to one in two. If women know they have BRCA gene mutations, they can choose to take action before cancer develops, much like Angelina has. Her bravery to announce this news publicly could save lives.”
Ovarian cancer is often called “the silent killer” because there are often no symptoms until the disease has advanced.
Currently, 615 new cases of ovarian cancer are detected each year in Scotland. The disease leads to 399 deaths annually.
Alexandra Holden, of Target Ovarian Cancer, said removing ovaries was not mainstream in the UK but increasingly recommended in the United States.
Of the 7,000 women diagnosed every year in the UK, around 20 per cent inherit the cancer and a “small proportion” of these will have the procedure.
“Angelina Jolie will do wonders for raising awareness about the procedure as a possibility for women,” Ms Holden said.
“It is the most effective way of preventing ovarian cancer and, although it doesn’t totally eradicate the risk, it significantly reduces it.”
Martin Ledwick, head information nurse at Cancer Research UK, said: “It is important to remember that only a relatively small proportion of breast and ovarian cancers are caused by one of these gene faults, so only a small number of women will be faced with this difficult choice.”
Jolie revealed she made the decision after doctors said she was at an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer.
Writing in the New York Times, Jolie, who has six children with husband Brad Pitt, said the decision was “not easy”.
“In my case, the eastern and western doctors I met agreed that surgery to remove my tubes and ovaries was the best option, because, on top of the BRCA gene, three women in my family have died from cancer. My doctors indicated I should have preventative surgery about a decade before the earliest onset of cancer in my female relatives.
“My mother’s ovarian cancer was diagnosed when she was 49. I’m 39. It is not possible to remove all risk, and the fact is that I remain prone to cancer.
“I will look for natural ways to strengthen my immune system. I feel feminine and grounded in my choices I make for myself and my family. I know my children will never have to say, ‘Mom died of ovarian cancer’.”
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