PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Angelina Jolie says she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed last week to ensure she has a long life with her husband and six children.

The superstar carries the BRCA1 gene mutation which greatly increases her risk for breast and ovarian cancer. Her mother, grandmother and aunt all died from the disease.

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Two years ago, Jolie had a preventive double mastectomy to lower her risk.

“When they have seen their loved ones go through something like that, they’re very eager to prevent those kinds of experiences in their own life,” says Dr. Fredric Price, a gynecologic oncologist at West Penn Hospital. “Angelina Jolie’s mother had her ovarian cancer at age 49. And we tell people to consider having risk reducing surgery about 10 years before their relative had their cancer.

She had a CA-125 blood test, which can be high with ovarian cancer — but hers was normal. She had additional inflammation tests which were high. This pushed her decision.

Not an easy one, considering removing the ovaries has life-changing effects.

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“The ovaries make prosetorone and estrogen,” says oncologist Dr. David Agus, “So now without hormones found in ovaries, she is now in menopause a decade earlier than most women.”

“I have patients in my practice who have agonized over this,” says Dr. Price. “She could have hot flashes, she could have night sweats, she could have mood changes, irritability, she could have changes in sexual function and for that reason, many women would avoid having their ovaries removed.”

Early menopause increases the chances of bone thinning and heart disease but the surgery lowers the chances of cancer.

Dr. Price says it was brave of a movie star to put her very personal story in a New York Times op-ed.

“Somebody who has made their femininity and their appearance an important part of their persona, and has decided to go through mastectomies, and oophorectomies, just to preserve what she finds to be more important, which is the ability to survive,” said Dr. Price.

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