Now she has gone public with another personal medical decision.
Jolie has now had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed. She says it was an easy decision; there is a long history of cancer in her family, and she did not want to take any chances.
Medical experts say this gene mutation that Jolie has is not only associated with breast cancer, but ovarian cancer.
It's actually a recommended procedure, and the medical community is expecting to see more people wanting to take this preventative measure.
"She has a BRCA mutation, so we know she is at a great risk to develop both those types of cancers. And it's been wonderful for her to share her story so other women who have similar family histories can be empowered to make the tough choices she's had to make," said Genetic Counselor Cary Armstrong.
Armstrong is a genetic counselor for the University of Arizona's Cancer Center at St. Joseph's.
"The purpose of the genetic counseling is a conversation, we go over your medical history, your family history, talk about whether genetic testing is appropriate, what the genetic tests will tell you, and what the screening is will be recommended," said Armstrong.
Genetic testing is done with a simple saliva sample. Results reveal cancer risks associated with certain mutated genes. Options range from more screening to risk-reducing surgeries like Jolie's.
"Ovarian cancer is a very deadly disease, so we don't have effective ways to screen the ovaries, so the recommendation is if someone has a BRCA 1 or 2 mutation, to remove the ovaries as soon as they're done having children,... it's not recommended below the age of 35, but it is recommended at an earlier because it reduces the risk of ovarian cancer significantly, by about 96%. Studies have shown when they are taken out at an earlier age it can also reduce the risk of breast cancer as well," she said.
Armstrong says there was an increase in people contacting genetic counselors, and undergoing testing after Jolie wrote about her double mastectomy in 2013. She expects to see an uptick again.
"I would anticipate we would see the same kind of increase in people asking more questions, and wanting to be more empowered with their healthcare," said Armstrong.
Armstrong said that many insurance companies cover genetic testing and the risk-reducing surgeries and more frequent screenings.
For more information visit: http://www.dignityhealth.org/stjosephs/services/cancer-center/services-and-programs/genetic-counseling