Angelina Jolie: My double mastectomy

Angelina Jolie has undergone a double mastectomy in a bid to prevent breast cancer.

The actress made the courageous decision after being told by doctors that she had an 87% risk of contracting breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of contracting ovarian cancer.

Jolie, whose mother battled the disease for 10 years before her death at 56, said it was her six children who prompted her to undergo the preventative procedure.

In a moving article she wrote for The New York Times, the 37-year-old said: "They have asked if the same could happen to me. I have always told them not to worry, but the truth is I carry a “faulty” gene, BRCA1, which sharply increases my risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer."

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt with their six children - who Jolie says influenced her operation decision

Jolie had three months of medical procedures, including having her breasts surgically reconstructed, and detailed the operations she underwent earlier this year.

"I wanted to write this to tell other women that the decision to have a mastectomy was not easy. But it is one I am very happy that I made."

She told of how her children now "don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer" and how she felt lucky to have "loving and supportive" partner Brad Pitt.

"Brad was at the Pink Lotus Breast Center, 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."

British breast cancer campaigner Wendy Watson praised Jolie as a "brave lady, who will be an inspiration to many."

Watson underwent a double mastectomy in 1996, when little was known about hereditary breast cancer and doctors were reluctant to perform the procedure.

Since then, she has overseen The National Hereditary Breast Cancer Helpline since her own operation, to provide support to patients and their families.

Words: Anna Pollitt. Images: Rex Features