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[dropcap]A[/dropcap]ngelina Jolie was back in the news this week, but there wasn’t a film to promote. Wasn’t a good cause to highlight either. She had undergone surgery, a double mastectomy to be exact.

When Jolie revealed news about her double mastectomy to the world, you could see the confusion all over the faces of those hearing the news. Not necessarily because of the surgery itself, but how she had managed to keep it a secret. In a day and age where social media rules and the paparazzi are omnipresent, how did she conceal this?

You’ve heard it a million times, throwaway comments about a woman turning into their mother, but in this case genetics can bring more than an obsession to iron socks and to co-ordinate cushions and ornaments. Jolie’s mother Marcheline Bertrand died in 2007 after a lengthy battle with ovarian cancer, and the BRCA1 gene has been passed to Angelina. It’s an inheritance that has given her an 87% chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer in the future. The BRCA1 gene is a tumour suppressor and its presence in a mutated state can indicate an increased risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. It is the same gene that Liberty X star Michelle Heaton carried and she also chose to have both of her breasts removed last year. It’s not over for Angelina though, as she is still to have an oophorectomy, removal of the ovaries.

According to reports it was Brad Pitt’s mother, Jane, who prompted Angelina to have the revealing blood test. The test cost a whopping £1,900 and was allegedly taken over  the Christmas period on a family getaway. After receiving the news about the gene and making the decision to be pro-active and take the preventative measures, the full process began in February. The process is called nipple delay and in Angelina’s words ‘rules out disease in the breast ducts behind the nipple and draws extra blood flow to the area. This causes some pain and a lot of bruising, but it increases the chance of saving the nipple’.

A couple of weeks later the actual procedure of removing the breast tissue took place and temporary fillers were put in place. Nine weeks later the reconstructive surgery was complete. All while this was taking place, Jolie was still working and although the physical effects were taking their toll, she had Pitt to lean on throughout the process. She said ‘I am fortunate to have a partner who is so loving and supportive.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’. Brad himself echoed the sentiment saying ‘Having witnessed this decision first hand, I find Angie’s choice, as well as so many others like her, absolutely heroic.’There have been reports that they will now take the final step in their eight year relationship and get married.

The procedure has reduced Jolie’s chances of breast cancer from 87% all the way down to 5% and the next step will be the oophorectomy. The journey has not yet finished, but by speaking out she is bringing to the fore a subject that affects far too many people across the world. 458,000 people die each year through breast cancer alone and early detection is the key. Of course not everyone has the same resources at their disposal, but it’s the detection that is paramount. You can follow Angelina’s regime at http://pinklotusbreastcenter.com/

Sources: NY Times, Daily Mail
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