Angelina Jolie dropped jaws early this morning when she revealed via a New York Times op ed that she underwent a double mastectomy—a major surgery to remove the tissue from both breasts—after discovering via a blood test that she carries BRCA1, a gene that increases her chance of getting breast cancer by 87%.
This is a big deal for a number of reasons. Obviously any woman revealing that she had both her breasts removed is a majorly courageous move, since so much of our femininity is (for better or for worse, rightly or wrongly) tied to them. But the stakes seem even higher when a big movie star—whose very career is in many ways dependent on her sex appeal—makes such a bold revelation.
“I am writing about it now because I hope that other women can benefit from my experience,” Jolie says. “Cancer is still a word that strikes fear into people’s hearts, producing a deep sense of powerlessness. But today it is possible to find out through a blood test whether you are highly susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer, and then take action.”
The 37-year-old Oscar winner and mother of six also was honest about the fact that the blood test to learn whether you’re susceptible to a genetically increased risk of breast cancer is expensive, running about $3,000 in the United States. Unfortunately, having the privilege to decide to whether or not you want to undergo this procedure is still just that: a privilege. But at least Angelina is using her status for a bit of good, and increasing women’s awareness of the power they have over their health and bodies.