AJolieLEGS042013_02_460.jpgJolie on April 20, 2013

Angelina Jolie announced in a New York Times op-ed piece on Tuesday, that she has undergone a preventative double mastectomy.

The actress learned she carries the BRCA1 gene, which significantly increases a carrier's risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer.

    "My doctors estimated that I had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer, although the risk is different in the case of each woman. Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much I could. I made a decision to have a preventive double mastectomy."

Jolie's mother, Marcheline Bertrand, died of breast cancer in 2007 at age 56.

Angelina explains that she finished three months of treatment on April 27 (just a week after the above photos were taken) and writes: "During that time I have been able to keep this private and to carry on with my work."

She details the procedures, which began with "nipple delay," in which the ducts behind the nipples are tested in order to rule out disease there and to save the nipple. Two weeks later she had the major surgery, to remove the breast tissue. Then nine weeks later, the final surgery to reconstruct the breasts and insert permanent implants.

Angelina explained her reasons for going public about the procedure:

    "I wanted to write this to tell other women that the decision to have a mastectomy was not easy. But it is one I am very happy that I made. My chances of developing breast cancer have dropped from 87 percent to under 5 percent. I can tell my children that they don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer.

    It is reassuring that they see nothing that makes them uncomfortable. They can see my small scars and that’s it. Everything else is just Mommy, the same as she always was."

She goes on to thank her "partner," Brad Pitt, who she describes as "loving and supportive."

Jolie urges women to get tested and to "take control" of life's challenges.