EVER since she first came to public attention in films like Gia and Girl, Interrupted, Angelina Jolie has captivated, fascinated and intrigued us.
Free-spirited, rebellious and stunning, Jolie attracts global media attention on an almost unprecedented scale.
Jolie is also an exceptional actress, winning an Oscar, two Screen Actors Guild awards and three Golden Globes. Now the woman often voted the sexiest in the world can add 'courageous' and 'inspirational' to the list of adjectives used to describe her.
By deciding to go ahead and have both her breasts removed in a bid to reduce the risk of developing cancer -- and subsequently writing and talking about it -- she has not only encouraged other women to get gene-tested but has galvanised them into taking control of their own medical health.
Knowing that she holds the BRCA1 gene, giving her an 87 per cent probability of developing breast cancer, Jolie elected to undergo a double mastectomy to remove her breast tissue completely.
The surgery, which began in February, has reduced Jolie's risk of breast cancer to less than 5 per cent. Pitt was by her side throughout three months of medical procedures.
The 37-year-old mum of six wrote in The New York Times: "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."
In the UK, around 3,000 women have undergone radical surgery to reduce the risk of breast cancer.
For other women, it may be a case of having regular mammograms or starting a course of preventative drugs but with odds of 87 per cent stacked against her, Jolie felt the risk was too great.
By talking about it so openly, alongside other celebrities like Sharon Osborne and Michelle Heaton who also underwent double mastectomies, Jolie has put the spotlight on breast cancer prevention.
This type of attention can't be underestimated.
When former Big Brother contestant Jade Goody died from cervical cancer, after speaking candidly about her battle with the disease, screening rates went up by 50 per cent.
"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," she said.
What Jolie has also done is reach out to other women who have undergone or plan to undergo similar surgery and reassure them that they can still be beautiful, feminine and strong without breasts