Angelina Jolie shares tribute to late mum and urges women with family cancer history to get checked

09 May 2023

Angelina Jolie has urged women with a history of cancer in their family to “look after” themselves and “take mamograms, blood tests and ultrasounds”.

The actor posted a touching tribute to her late mum on Instagram for what would have been her 73rd birthday.

Marcia Lynne ‘Marcheline’ Bertrand – also an actor – died of ovarian cancer in 2007,  after also being diagnosed with breast cancer.

Jolie underwent a prophylactic double mastectomy in 2013, because she carries a gene called BRCA1 that significantly increases the odds of developing breast or ovarian cancer.

The 47-year-old posted: “[My mother] passed away 15 years ago after a long struggle with breast and ovarian cancer”.

“In June, I will be a month away from the age when she was diagnosed. I have had preventive surgeries to try to lessen the chances but I continue to have check ups.

“My mom loved Hendrix. And would always sign her letters Kiss the Sky. It took on new meaning after she passed.

“Sending my love to those who have also lost loved ones and strength to those who are fighting at this very moment for their lives and the lives of those they love.

“And to other women, please take the time to look after yourself and go for your mammograms and blood tests or ultrasounds, particularly if you have a family history of cancer.”

What the experts say

Ovarian cancer affects the two ovaries that store eggs. Its symptoms are often overlooked.

According to Target Ovarian Cancer, the four main symptoms are persistent bloating; pelvic or abdominal pain; feeling full or a loss of appetite and an increased need to urinate.

“The term bloating is often used to describe a feeling of fullness in the tummy, which can often be associated with the lower abdomen looking swollen,” said Dr Susanna Unsworth, women’s health expert and in-house gynaecology expert for Intimina.

“Bloating is often a consequence of bowel issues, but it is also recognised as one of the potential symptoms of ovarian cancer.

“Ovarian cancer has been described as a ‘silent killer’ as the symptoms can often be mild and may go unnoticed in the early stages of the disease,” she added. “By the time someone consults with a doctor, the cancer may have already become quite widespread.

Research done in 2021 by CoppaFeel! found that one in seven women in the UK will be affected by breast cancer in their lifetime, and one in nine in Ireland.

According to the NHS website, you should see your GP if you find a new lump, thickened skin, a change in the size or shape of your breasts, nipple fluid or discharge, lumps or swelling in your armpits, a change in skin texture or nipple appearance or a rash like eczema.

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