In 2013, Angelina Jolie wrote an article in The New York Times entitled 'My Medical Choice'. In it, she revealed she had undergone a preventative double mastectomy, after finding out she carried BRCA1, a 'faulty gene', which dramatically increased the risks of developing breast and ovarian cancer.
The procedure involved the removal of both of her breasts to replace them with implants. 'The operation can take eight hours,' she wrote in the paper. 'You wake up with drain tubes and expanders in your breasts. It does feel like a scene out of a science-fiction film.'
A clearly traumatic experience, Angelina said of it, 'I wanted to write this to tell other women that the decision to have a mastectomy was not easy. But it is one I am very happy that I made... I choose not to keep my story private because there are many women who do not know that they might be living under the shadow of cancer. It is my hope that they, too, will be able to get gene tested, and that if they have a high risk they, too, will know that they have strong options.'
It appears her decision to speak out has, as she hoped, raised awareness of the illness – and the testing available for it. For between the years 2008 and 2014 the University of Georgia has found that BRCA testing increased 80-fold, with a large number of tests occurring in 2013 when Angelina went public with her news.
What might have also effected this increase was the US supreme court's ruling that year, which prevented human DNA tests from being patented. This meant it would be less expensive to test for cancerous mutations and would be affordable for more people.
'This could provide insights on the impact of the policy changes and the media coverage of celebrity endorsement,' said Zhuo "Adam" Chen, an associate professor at The University of Georgia's College of Public Health who lead the study.
It appears, indeed, it could. This is a fantastic result for the award-winning actress and director. Angelina, we salute you.