Angelina Jolie has been praised by health campaigners for helping raise awareness of breast cancer after revealing she under went a preventative double mastectomy to reduce her risk of developing the disease.
The 37-year-old Hollywood star said she took the decision to have the procedure because she carries the "faulty" gene BRCA1, which sharply increases her risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
"My doctors estimated that I had an 87% risk of breast cancer and a 50% risk of ovarian cancer, although the risk is different in the case of each woman," she wrote in an article for the New York Times.
The Tomb Raider actress and humanitarian campaigner said she was writing about her ordeal in the hope that other women might benefit from her experience. The star, in an article entitled My Medical Choice, said she finished the three months of medical procedures on April 27, and added: "During that time I have been able to keep this private and to carry on with my work."
She paid tribute her "loving and supportive" partner Brad Pitt, writing: "So to anyone who has a wife or girlfriend going through this, know that you are a very important part of the transition. Brad was at the Pink Lotus Breast Centre, where I was treated, for every minute of the surgeries. We managed to find moments to laugh together. We knew this was the right thing to do for our family and that it would bring us closer. And it has."
Jolie, whose mother had cancer and died at 56, said waking up from the operation can feel "like a scene out of a science-fiction film" .
She said the decision to have the mastectomy was not easy but that she was happy to have gone ahead with it. Urging women to get checked out, she said: "I hope it helps you to know you have options. I want to encourage every woman, especially if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, to seek out the information and medical experts who can help you through this aspect of your life, and to make your own informed choices."
Liberty X singer Michelle Heaton, who under went a double mastectomy last year, hailed Jolie's decision to publicise her double mastectomy as "incredibly important" in raising awareness and giving encouragement to women in a similar situation.
"I can't even stress how much of an impact I had, saying that I was going through this, on women - especially through Twitter and people writing to me," she told ITV's Daybreak. "Imagine what impact somebody as huge as Angelina Jolie can have on this.
Wendy Watson, who founded the National Hereditary Breast Cancer Helpline, from near Bakewell, Derbyshire, also praised Jolie for her decision to write publicly about her operation. "It is excellent, because it is the highest profile you can get for it," she said. "It raises the profile for other women to look to if they have a family history and would benefit from being screened more frequently, or having surgery or having a genetic test," she said.