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Angelina Jolie Reveals She Underwent Double Mastectomy

Astrid Stawiarz/WireImage(NEW YORK) -- Angelina Jolie made a surprising revelation early Tuesday: she has undergone a double mastectomy as a preventive measure.

In an op-ed piece published by The New York Times, Jolie writes that she is a carrier of a "faulty" gene, BRCA1, which increases her risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer.  As a result, she discloses, she decided to have a preventive double mastectomy, a process that began in early February.

Jolie, whose mother Marcheline Bertrand died of cancer in 2007 at age 56, tells readers, "I am writing about it now because I hope that other women can benefit from my experience."

The 37-year-old actress notes that she is "fortunate" to have a partner, her fiancé Brad Pitt, who is "so loving and supportive."  She adds, "We knew this was the right thing to do for our family and that it would bring us closer.  And it has."

The mother of six describes undergoing a procedure on Feb. 2 known as a "nipple delay," which increased the chance of saving the nipple.  She underwent surgery to remove breast tissue two weeks later.  Nine weeks after that, her breasts were reconstructed with an implant.

Jolie says that as a result of her surgery, her risk of developing breast cancer has dropped from 87 percent to under 5 percent.

She says, "I can tell my children that they don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer....[T]hey know that I love them and will do anything to be with them as long as I can.  On a personal note, I do not feel any less of a woman.  I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity."

The op-ed concludes: "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.  Life comes with many challenges.  The ones that should not scare us are the ones we can take on and take control of."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio