Angelina Jolie has had a preventive double mastectomy, writing for the New York Times that she is "very happy" with the decision, and paying tribute to her "loving and supportive" partner Brad Pitt.

The Hollywood star said she took the decision to have the procedure when doctors told her she had an 87% risk of breast cancer and a 50% risk of ovarian cancer.

angelina jolie

Angelina Jolie has had a preventive double mastectomy

Writing in The New York Times, the Tomb Raider actress said she finished the three months of medical procedures on April 27, and added: "During that time I have been able to keep this private and to carry on with my work."

The 37-year-old star said she was writing about the ordeal, in an article titled My Medical Choice, in the hope that other women can benefit from her experience.

angelina jolie brad pitt

Angelina praised her 'loving and supporting' partner, Brad Pitt

Jolie, whose mother had cancer and died at 56, said waking up from the operation can feel "like a scene out of a science-fiction film" .

She said the decision to have the mastectomy was not easy but that she was happy to have gone ahead with it.

"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.

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"And they know that I love them and will do anything to be with them as long as I can. On a personal note, I do not feel any less of a woman. I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity."

Urging women to get checked out, the star said: "For any woman reading this, I hope it helps you to know you have options.

"I want to encourage every woman, especially if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, to seek out the information and medical experts who can help you through this aspect of your life, and to make your own informed choices."

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Paying tribute to Pitt, Jolie said: "I am fortunate to have a partner, Brad Pitt, who is so loving and supportive.

"So to anyone who has a wife or girlfriend going through this, know that you are a very important part of the transition.

"Brad was at the Pink Lotus Breast Centre, where I was treated, for every minute of the surgeries.

"We managed to find moments to laugh together. We knew this was the right thing to do for our family and that it would bring us closer. And it has."

Michelle Heaton hailed Jolie's decision to publicise her double mastectomy as "incredibly important" in giving support and encouragement to other women in a similar situation.

michelle heaton

Libery X star, Michelle Heaton underwent a double mastectomy last year

"I can't even stress how much of an impact I had, saying that I was going through this, on women - especially through Twitter and people writing to me.

"It was such a huge impact and I know that I have had hundreds of women who have gone for this test and subsequently found that they had the BRCA gene and they can then make an informed decision," she told ITV's Daybreak.

"Imagine what impact somebody as huge as Angelina Jolie can have on this."

Foreign Secretary William Hague, who in March visited refugee camps in the Democratic Republic of Congo with Jolie as part of a campaign to highlight the problem of mass rape in conflict areas, said she was "a brave lady" who would be "an inspiration to many".

Hague told Sky News: "She is a courageous lady and a very professional lady. She's done a lot of work with me in recent months.

"She also came over to the G8 foreign ministers' summit in London to work with me on our initiative on preventing sexual violence in conflict and travelled with me through some difficult places in the Congo.

"She gave no sign that she was undergoing such treatment and I think she's a very brave lady, not only to carry on with her work so well during such treatment, but also to write about it now and talk about it. I think that she's a brave lady and will be an inspiration to many."

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  • Style Evolution: Angelina Jolie

    1986. The legendary actor Jon Voight walked the red carpet at the 58th Annual Academy Awards with his unknown 10-year-old daughter Angelia Jolie Voight. If Jolie had realised all that white lace would haunt her forever she may have picked a more subtle dress!

  • Style Evolution: Angelina Jolie

    1994. Still a Daddy's girl, Jolie attended the 25th anniversary celebration of Midnight Cowboy (her father's most famous film) wearing leather instead of lace.

  • Style Evolution: Angelina Jolie

    1997. With two major films under her belt, Hackers (where she met her first husband Jonny Lee Miller) and Foxfire, 22-year-old Jolie boldly rocked a shaved head and a little black dress at the premiere performance of Fedora.

  • Style Evolution: Angelina Jolie

    1998. Still a wild child, Jolie stuck to black while promoting her critically acclaimed HBO film Gia.

  • Style Evolution: Angelina Jolie

    1999. For the 5th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards Jolie lightened her hair colour and walked the red carpet looking very reminiscent of Marylin Monroe.

  • Style Evolution: Angelina Jolie

    1999. A practitioner of method acting, Jolie was back in a dark place for her breakout role in Girl Interrupted. The disturbing intensity she brought to the part carried on to the red carpet for the film's L.A. premiere.

  • Style Evolution: Angelina Jolie

    1999. For the 56th Annual Golden Globe Awards Jolie went for an uncharacteristically girly champagne sequin gown.

  • Style Evolution: Angelina Jolie

    2000. After meeting Billy Bob Thornton on the set of 1999's Pushing Tin Jolie again married one of her co-stars. The pair became infamous for their taste in jewellery (vials of each other's blood) and their out-of-control PDA's. Here on the red carpet for the premiere of Gone in 60 Seconds the couple made their affection very clear telling a reporter they had gotten busy in the limo on the way over.

  • Style Evolution: Angelina Jolie

    2000. At 24-years-old Jolie had two Emmy Awards, two Golden Globes and she added an Oscar to her trophy list. Unfortunately her Elvira-like outfit and a proclamation of love for her brother garnered even more attention than her achievement.

  • Style Evolution: Angelina Jolie

    2001. Attending the 73rd Annual Academy Awards as a presenter Jolie went for a menswear inspired white suit.

  • Style Evolution: Angelina Jolie

    2000. Jolie showed off her buff Lara Croft: Tomb Raider bod and her new "Billy Bob" tattoo on at the 58th Annual Golden Globe Awards.

  • Style Evolution: Angelina Jolie

    2004. Returning to the award show red carpet, Jolie wore a Marc Bouwer gown and a $10 million, 85-carat H.Stern necklace made from flawless diamonds to the 76th Annual Academy Awards.

  • Style Evolution: Angelina Jolie

    2003. Jolie kept her style appropriately elegant and understated for the World Premiere of Beyond Borders.

  • Style Evolution: Angelina Jolie

    March 10, 2002. Jolie became a mum when she adopted a 7 month old Cambodian baby she named Maddox. Shortly after Jolie officially split with Billy Bob she started keeping a much lower fashion and fame profile.

  • Style Evolution: Angelina Jolie

    2006. When they technically became a couple is still up for debate, but "Brangelina" walked the red carpet together for the first time in 2006 for the premiere of The Good Shepherd.

  • Style Evolution: Angelina Jolie

    2007. The busy mum kept it simple wearing her trademark oversized sunglasses and a grey pencil skirt for a visit to the Central Park Carousel with Zahara and Pax .

  • Style Evolution: Angelina Jolie

    2007. Again coming out in support of Brad Pitt, Jolie played up her sexy curves in a L'Wren Scott sheath dress and Jimmy Choo peep-toe heels at the premiere of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

  • Style Evolution: Angelina Jolie

    2008. With a bump far too big to hide Jolie promoted her animated film Kung Fu Panda at the Cannes Film Festival in a floral Thomas Wylde dress.

  • Style Evolution: Angelina Jolie

    2007. Supporting her man, Jolie lit up the Cannes red carpet for the premiere of Ocean's Thirteen in canary yellow Ungaro haute couture.

  • Style Evolution: Angelina Jolie

    2007. Proving not everything worn on the red carpet has to be designer, Jolie wore a black velvet vintage dress she bought for $26 to the premiere of A Mighty Heart.

  • Style Evolution: Angelina Jolie

    July 12, 2008. Despite her twin-sized baby bump, Jolie looked stunning in a Max Azria Atelier gown at her final Cannes appearance, and last red carpet stop, before giving birth to Knox Léon and Vivienne Marcheline.

  • Style Evolution: Angelina Jolie

    2008. For her first post-twin appearance Jolie slipped into a strapless formfitting black dress for the premiere of her new film The Changeling.

  • Style Evolution: Angelina Jolie

    2008. Jolie added fuel to the pregnancy rumour fire when she turned up at the 14th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in this billowing vintage Hermès gown.

  • Style Evolution: Angelina Jolie

    2010. Angelina sizzles in this sequin LBD at the LA premire of her latest blockbuster, Salt.

  • Style Evolution: Angelina Jolie

    2011. Angelina looked stunning in a flattering, figure hugging, navy one-shoulder gown when attending the premiere of In the land of blood and honey.

  • Style Evolution: Angelina Jolie

    2012. Angelina Jolie in a gorgeous pleated Elie Saab dress at the 23rd Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards.