Her mother lost a battle with cancer at age 56, and actress Angelina Jolie is determined to avoid a similar fate.
She wrote an article in the New York Times revealing that she carries a "faulty" gene, BRCA1, and has had a double mastectomy to reduce her chances of getting breast cancer.
“My chances of developing breast cancer have dropped from 87% to under 5%. I can tell my children that they don't need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer," writes Jolie.
She hopes her story will inspire other women fighting the disease.
Dr. Christy Teal, Director of the Breast Cancer Center at George Washington University Hospital, performs about two dozen preventative mastectomies each year, and has undergone the procedure herself.
Teal's family actually tested negative for the so-called breast cancer gene, but she says there are other genes that have not yet been identified.
She made the decision after her own mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.
"It's a very, very personal decision and I think the most important thing Angelina is showing is you shouldn't judge a woman if she decides to go ahead and do the preventative surgery,” Teal says.
The procedure does not make sense for everyone, but doctors are hoping Jolie's story will help increase awareness and, perhaps, help save some lives.
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