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Angelina Jolie's op-ed prompts strong reactions

Angelina Jolie revealed today that she has spent the past several months fighting her risk of breast cancer by undergoing a double mastectomy. Responses have been varied.

By Karen RowanLive Science / May 14, 2013

Angelina Jolie, seen here in 2011, wrote an op-ed in Tuesday's New York Times saying that in April she finished three months of surgical procedures to remove both breasts as a preventive measure. She says she’s kept the process private but is writing about it now with hopes she can help other women.

Carlo Allegri / AP / File

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Women all over the world are reacting to actress Angelina Jolie's revelation today (May 14) that she has undergone a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.

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The emotions, as seen in the comments section of Jolie's op-ed in the New York Times, range from gratitude to Jolie for telling her story, to feeling "braver" about approaching a breast cancer diagnosis or treatment, to those who lament that the care that Jolie received may not be available to all women.

In Jolie's piece, she revealed that she has a "faulty" BRCA1 gene that put her at high risk for breast cancer, a disease that claimed her mother's life at age 56. She detailed the reasons for her decision to undergo a double mastectomy several months ago, as well as her feelings now that it's over.

Some commenters on the piece said they were thankful. "Thanks for your story. As a public figure, you may be able to influence someone to take preventative action," despite their fears, one commenter wrote. "Thank you, Angelina, for going public on this most private subject. I applaud your bravery," another said.

The gratitude that some women are expressing to Jolie likely stems from the level of intimacy with her that they now feel, said Dr. Tina Walch, a psychiatrist specializing in women's issues at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, N.Y.

"She's one of the sexiest women in the world, and now she's approachable, she's normalized. You can see her in your living room," Walch said.

While many women wouldn’t even share such details with acquaintances or co-workers, Jolie has shared her decision with the world. This makes some women feel thankful for her story because they feel they have gained a relationship with her, Walch said.

Some commenters talked about feeling safer. "Thank you for your bravery and strength, Angelina Jolie. You've made me feel less vulnerable as a woman," one wrote. Another said, "I am having a prophylactic bilateral double mastectomy with reconstruction on Wednesday morning … I've been terrified for weeks … After reading Ms. Jolie's story told with such grace, a little of the terror has diminished."

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