The cancer institute estimates that 14 out of every 1,000 women in the general population will develop ovarian cancer in their lifetime. However, that risk rises steeply among women with mutations in either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes to anywhere between 155 to 400 women per 1,000.
These genetic mutations are most commonly found in Jewish women of eastern European descent. Also, Norwegian, Dutch, and Icelandic peoples have higher rates of BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations, according to the cancer institute.
Dr. Michael Cowher, a breast surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic, said the BRCA mutation doesn't just affect women's breasts or ovaries -- males who carry the genetic mutation face an increased risk of breast and prostate cancers. Also, there's an increased risk of pancreatic cancer in BRCA2 and some BRCA1 carriers, he said.
Oophorectomy does come with its own risks for premenopausal women, according to the Mayo Clinic, and the decision should be carefully considered. Risks include bone-thinning (osteoporosis), menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and an increased risk of heart disease.
The procedure itself "is a generally safe procedure that carries a small risk of complications, including infection, intestinal blockage and injury to internal organs," the Mayo Clinic said.
In regards to Jolie's double mastectomy, experts stressed that breast removal isn't the only choice facing a woman with BRCA mutations. "There are other options they can discuss with their doctor," Cowher said. "These include chemoprevention with medications like tamoxifen, and increased frequency of clinical and image-based screening regimens," he explained.
A double mastectomy involves removing as much "at-risk" ti
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