Ovarian Cancer: Angelina Jolie-Pitt’s Story & What You Should Know About the Disease

Mar 24 • 2015

Two years ago, Angelina Jolie-Pitt chose to have a double mastectomy and shared her story with the world. Because of her family history of cancer and knowing she carried a mutation in the BRCA1 gene, she spoke with doctors and determined a double mastectomy was the best method for preventing the disease. But that was not the only preventive surgery she chose to have. She recently wrote this article in the New York Times about her decision to also remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes in an effort to prevent ovarian cancer.

In the article, Angelina Jolie-Pitt details her conversations with doctors and the research she did before opting for surgery. So, how does this story apply to you? Are you at risk for ovarian cancer? We’ve outlined what you need to know about the symptoms, prevention, and treatment options for ovarian cancer below.

Ovarian Cancer Symptoms

Ovarian cancer can show early symptoms. The most common symptoms women experience are:

  • Pain in the pelvis or stomach
  • Frequent bloating
  • Urinary problems like the need to urinate suddenly or urinating more often than normal
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly

While these do not necessarily mean you have ovarian cancer, if they start suddenly, do not feel like normal digestive or menstrual problems, and/or happen almost every day without relief, speak with your doctor. Some women with ovarian cancer also experience menstrual cycle changes, back pain, fatigue, pain during intercourse, indigestion and constipation.

Ovarian Cancer Treatment

There are several treatment options for ovarian cancer. Once your tests are complete, your doctor will recommend one or more of these options based on your personal case. The main choices are:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Targeted therapy
  • Hormone therapy

It is common for two or more of these treatments to be used together. Don’t feel rushed to make a decision; consider all of the options and ask questions to be sure you fully understand what each one entails, including any possible side effects.

Ovarian Cancer Prevention

While there is no way to completely prevent ovarian cancer, there are steps you can take to lower your risk. Factors that are linked to lower ovarian cancer risk include:

  • Taking birth control pills – research has shown that women who took oral contraceptives for three or more years are 30 to 50 percent less likely to develop ovarian cancer
  • Breastfeeding
  • Pregnancy
  • Hysterectomy or tubal ligation

If you have a strong family history of ovarian cancer, the preventive surgery that Angelina Jolie-Pitt chose is an option. This operation reduces the risk of developing ovarian or fallopian tube cancer significantly, but does not completely eliminate it. It is important to speak with your doctor about all of these prevention tips, including preventive surgery, to determine the best method for you.

What are your thoughts on Angelina Jolie-Pitt’s decision? Share them with us in the comments.

Photo credit: cinemafestival /