Angelina Jolie urges women to ‘go for mammograms and blood tests’

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(NEW YORK) — Angelina Jolie paid tribute to her late mother this week, 15 years after her death from cancer, and encouraged other women to “go for mammograms and blood tests or ultrasounds.”

Mammograms are the recommended tests to screen for breast cancer in average risk women. Though there are currently no known effective screenings for ovarian cancer, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network recommends ultrasounds and blood tests for patients with BRCCA1 or BRCA2 gene variants.

In an Instagram post she shared on Monday, the actress and humanitarian brought awareness to breast and ovarian cancer by reminding women to “look after themselves.”

“Tomorrow would have been my mother’s 73rd birthday,” Jolie began. “She passed away 15 years ago, after a long struggle with breast and ovarian cancer. In June, I will be a month away from the age when she was diagnosed. I have had preventive surgeries to try to lessen chances but I continue to have check ups.”

“Sending my love to those who have also lost loved ones and strength to those who are fighting at this very moment for their lives and the lives of those they love,” she continued. “And to other women, please take the time to look after yourself and go for your mammograms and blood tests or ultrasounds, particularly if you have a family history of cancer.”

Jolie shared the post on World Ovarian Cancer Day, which aims to bring awareness about the disease.

In a 2015 op-ed for the New York Times, Jolie announced that she underwent surgery to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes as a preventative measure to lower her risk of cancer. For women like Jolie, who carry the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic variants, surgery is one method to prevent cancer, though it is not recommended for women with average risk.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 55-72% of women with the BRCA1 variant, like Jolie, develop breast cancer by age 70-80, and 39-44% develop ovarian cancer by age 70-80.

“I lost my mother, grandmother and aunt to cancer,” she said at the time. “I wanted other women at risk to know about the options.”

According to the National Cancer Institute, a woman’s lifetime risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer is markedly increased if she inherits a harmful variant in BRCA1 or BRCA2.

The institute encourages those who are concerned about the possibility of having the harmful variant in either gene to discuss those concerns with their health care provider or a genetic counselor.

Two years prior to opening up about her surgery to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes, Jolie wrote in another op-ed that she had a preventive double mastectomy.

In her op-ed, she echoed what she shared in her recent Instagram post and said that she hoped other women could “benefit from my experience.”

“Cancer is still a word that strikes fear into people’s hearts, producing a deep sense of powerlessness,” she wrote in the op-ed. “But today it is possible to find out through a blood test whether you are highly susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer and take action.”

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