Angelina Jolie's Surgeon: "The Time Was Right Now to Do the Ovaries" (Video)

AP Images
Angelina Jolie

"The operation to remove breast, because of the reconstructive process, is about start-to-finish three months, so circumstances in her life just worked out better two years ago to move with the breast first."

Angelina Jolie's surgeon is helping to clarify the actress' move to have her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed.

Jolie wrote a New York Times op-ed explaining her decision, which means the mother of six — three of whom are adopted — will not be able to have any more children biologically. Jolie has revealed that she carries the BRCA1 gene, which brings an estimated 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer. Her family has a history of cancer; her mother had breast cancer and later died of ovarian cancer, and her aunt died of breast cancer. Her grandmother also had ovarian cancer.

On Good Morning America on Wednesday, Dr. Kristi Funk, the surgical breast specialist who performed Jolie's preventive double mastectomy in 2013, explained that "[w]hen BRCA1 carriers don't yet have a known cancer, they have a little more flexibility with the choice of doing breast versus ovaries first, and in Angie's case, she knew that her ultimate risks for breast cancer were higher than ovarian.

"Also, the operation to remove breast, because of the reconstructive process, is about start-to-finish three months, so circumstances in her life just worked out better two years ago to move with the breast first, and the time was right now to do the ovaries," Funk continued. "Removing ovaries prior to age 40 cuts breast cancer risk in half for BRCA1 carriers."

ABC News senior medical contributor Dr. Jennifer Ashlyn added that the BSO, or bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy, that Jolie recently underwent is "a minimally-invasive surgery — usually it's done laparoscopically, with tiny incisions in the belly — and it's generally low-risk, but it's not zero risk."

Jolie noted that she is now in menopause — a process forced by the surgery, says Funk: "When you remove [the ovaries and fallopian tubes], you remove all those hormones in an instant, so she wakes up menopausal, as opposed to natural menopause where your ovaries sort of peter out over time, months to years, so you have a heads up on the systems."

Still, Jolie stated in the op-ed, "I will not be able to have any more children, and I expect some physical changes. But I feel at ease with whatever will come, not because I am strong but because this is a part of life. It is nothing to be feared. ... It is not easy to make these decisions. But it is possible to take control and tackle head-on any health issue. You can seek advice, learn about the options and make choices that are right for you. Knowledge is power."

Watch the discussion in the video below.

comments powered by Disqus