Angelina Jolie Takes Action Against Cancer Risk

Hollywood actress undergoes preventive double mastectomy.
4:22 | 05/14/13

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Transcript for Angelina Jolie Takes Action Against Cancer Risk
headline, that stunning surprise from one of the world's most glamourous women. Angelina jolie, haunted by her mother's death and armed with 9 knowledge she was at high-risk for breast cancer, announcing she had both breasts removed, and signaling all women who face the difficult choice, it does not change who you are. Here's abc's paula faris. Reporter: She is the epitome of hollywood glamor and beauty, voted the most beautiful woman in the world many times over. But now angelina jolie has joined the growing ranks of american women who have tested positive for a high-risk breast cancer gene -- and taken the radical step of a preventive double mastectomy. In the new york times today, she writes her doctors estimated she had an 87% risk of breast cancer and a 50% risk of ovarian cancer. So she did it for her children. I had always told them not to worry, but the truth is I carry a faulty gene, brca1." Reporter: Up to 380,000 women carry a faulty breast cancer gene. 36% take the path of jolie. Like megan considine, a mother of two. Just like me, she's a mom. She finds out she has this gene and she has to make decisions. Reporter: And you make those decisions for your kids. For your kids, for your husband, for yourself. Reporter: Jolie's three-month mastectomy and reconstructive process began in february. She kept it private and carried on with her work. Here she is on the red carpet in february just days after what we now know was her first procedure. In march, ten days after major surgery to have breast tissue removed, she takes a humanitarian trip to the congo. In april, attending the women in the world summit. The next day, taking the kids shopping. She writes her chances of developing breast cancer have now dropped from 87% to under 5%. I can tell my children that they don't need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer. But the oscar-winning actress hints she may still have to deal with the high chance of developing ovaryian cancer which claimed her mom at the age of 56. We often speak of mommy's mommy, and I find myself trying to explain the illness that took her away from us. Today he says, I find angie's choice, as well as so many others like her, absolutely heroic. Paving the way for all women to be bold, brave, and still beautiful. Paula faris, abc news, new york. Thank to paula there. There were so many questions today. We heard you. You streamed them in to us about risk and choices and we turn now to abc's senior medical correspondent their jennifer ashton whose specialties women's health. Going from 87% risk to 5% is so dramatic. That's right. That risk is now lower than the average women's lifetime risk. Even if you don't have the gene? That's correct. It goes way down, not zero because there are still breast cells left, but it's a major risk reduction. And ovaryian cancer, that risk can be red? Exactly. For this type of mutation, there's a 50% risk of ovarian cancer which can be treated with REMOVAL OF THE OVARYs, A Separate surgery. Does insurance pay for this? It can be incredible expensive, the good news is, most of the time insurance does cover it. And sometimes reconstructive surgery is available as well. You've been telling me there have been women who havehis gene and decide I'm not going to do it. It's going to be waiting and watching. That's right. And I have patients who have faced this exact decision, diane. And it is very complicated. It's highly emotional. It takes into account the woman's age, family status, other issues and in fact up 65% of won, according to a 2008 study, choose watchful waiting. But there's a big difference between reducing the risk with surgery and increasing the possible detection of cancer can screening. Very different things. And one person, angelina jolie, saying you can be fully aware. Increased awareness, yes. Thanks so much, jen.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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