Angelina Jolie reveals she has had preventative double mastectomy

Angelina Jolie leaves a G8 Foreign Ministers Meeting in London in April. Photo: Reuters

Actress and campaigner Angelina Jolie has revealed she has undergone a preventative double mastectomy to reduce her risk of breast cancer.

Writing in the New York Times, the 37-year-old said she completed the medical procedures at the end of April and was going public with her story in the hope that "other women can benefit from [her] experience."

A double mastectomy involves surgery to remove the tissue of both breasts. Jolie's final procedure finished, she said, "with the reconstruction of the breasts with an implant."

Jolie's mother battled cancer for a decade and died aged 56, she said, adding that doctors calculated she had an 87% chance of contracting the disease herself as a carrier of the BRCA1 gene.

Angelina Jolie pictured with her mother Marcheline Bertrand in 2001. Credit: Reuters

My mother fought cancer for almost a decade and died at 56. She held out long enough to meet the first of her grandchildren and to hold them in her arms. But my other children will never have the chance to know her and experience how loving and gracious she was.

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.

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.

– Angelina Jolie
Jolie with partner Brad Pitt at a charity event in February 2012. Credit: Reuters

"For any woman reading this," she wrote, "I hope it helps you to know you have options.

"I want to encourage every woman, especially if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, to seek out the information and medical experts who can help you through this aspect of your life, and to make your own informed choices."

Jolie said her chances of developing breast cancer had now dropped from 87% to under 5% and her children no longer need fear losing her to the disease.