May 14, 2013 at 3:27 AM ET
Angelina Jolie announced Tuesday in the New York Times that she has undergone a preventive double mastectomy after being told that she carries the BRCA1 gene, sharply increasing her risk for breast and ovarian cancer.
"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," wrote Jolie, who lost her own mother to cancer in 2007. "It is my hope that they, too, will be able to get gene tested, and that if they have a high risk they, too, will know that they have strong options."
Fame and wealth didn't protect Jolie from the decision she had to make, and she's far from the first celebrity who's battled cancer.
In the fall of 2012, reality show star Sharon Osbourne, wife of rocker Ozzy, revealed that she too had a preventive double mastectomy upon learning that, like Jolie, she carried a gene that made her susceptible to breast cancer. "I've had cancer before and I didn't want to live under that cloud," she told Hello! Magazine. Osbourne was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2001.
Allyn Rose, Miss D.C.
Allyn Rose represented the District of Columbia in January's Miss America pageant. Before competing, Rose announced that she carries another genetic mutation -- not BRCA1 or BRCA2 -- and plans to have a preventive double mastectomy after her year as Miss D.C. Rose's mother, a marathon runner, died of breast cancer when her daughter was just 16, and Rose competed with the pageant platform of "“Breast Cancer: Planning a Marathon, Running a Sprint."
TV host Giuliana Rancic didn't want to have a mammogram as part of her infertility treatment in 2011, but her doctor insisted -- and Rancic later called it one of the best decisions of her life. The mammogram showed the early stages of breast cancer, and Rancic eventually underwent a double mastectomy.
Beloved young adult fiction author Judy Blume revealed on her website in September 2012 that she had been diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma. Blume chose to have a single mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, though she later mused on her site that she wondered if she should have had both breasts removed. "A yenta with a sense of humor said, 'Honey... take them both off and get yourself a matched pair,' " Blume wrote. "She wasn't the only one who recommended that. And I admit, sometimes I think I should have."
Actress Christina Applegate was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008 and elected to remove both breasts even though the disease was contained to one. Applegate's own mother battled breast cancer, and the actress tested positive for the BRCA1 gene mutatation. “I just wanted to kind of be rid of it,” she said. “So this was the choice I made and it was a tough one.”
"Misery" star Kathy Bates underwent a double mastectomy in the fall of 2012, almost a decade after being treated for ovarian cancer. "I don't miss my breasts as much as I miss 'Harry's Law,' " she joked of her canceled show.