Angelina Jolie Mastectomy: How Did She Keep Her Surgery A Secret?

 @EllenKilloran on May 14 2013 5:25 PM

Angelina Jolie is dominating headlines Tuesday after publishing an op-ed in the New York Times about her recent double mastectomy. The mother of six opted for the prophylactic surgery after learning through genetic testing that she carried an 87% risk of developing breast cancer in her lifetime. Her mother, Marcheline Bertrand, died of the disease in 2007 when she was 56. Jolie published the column, “My Medical Choice,” just weeks after finishing the surgery.

"On April 27, I finished the three months of medical procedures that the mastectomies involved. During that time I have been able to keep this private and to carry on with my work.

But I am writing about it now because I hope that other women can benefit from my experience. Cancer is still a word that strikes fear into people’s hearts, producing a deep sense of powerlessness. But today it is possible to find out through a blood test whether you are highly susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer, and then take action."

The polarizing actress’ announcement has been well-received, with celebrities and mortals alike praising Jolie for making what many see as a brave, selfless decision, and for bringing attention to breast cancer prevention and the choices available to at-risk women.

The Pink Lotus Breast Center, where Jolie had her surgery in late February, is also enjoying some publicity. Jolie name-checked the Beverly Hills facility in the Times op-ed, and her face now appears on the Pink Lotus Breast Center website, along with a promise from Pink Lotus to share the “story behind Angelina Jolie’s brave mastectomy decision.” Visitors were directed to follow Pink Lotus on Twitter to find out more, and at 1 p.m. local time on Tuesday, Jolie’s doctor held a press conference outside the center, where Jolie’s surgeon reportedly spoke about her procedure.  

Jolie’s endorsement of the Pink Lotus Breast Center may help explain how Jolie was able to keep her breast surgery a secret. Even Kate Middleton was not able to prevent news of her pregnancy from leaking to a rabid media after she was hospitalized for acute morning sickness. We are only speculating here, but it doesn’t seem unreasonable to imagine that Jolie and the Pink Lotus Breast Center made some kind of an agreement that guaranteed the actress’ privacy. (Though it should be noted that Cheryl Crow, who had a lumpectomy at the center, is also featured on the website with a quote endorsing her surgeon.)

The Pink Lotus Breast Center is in the middle of Beverly Hills, steps from Rodeo Drive and just a few blocks from the shops on Robertson Boulevard, ground zero for paparazzi. Jolie’s unique relationship with the media was the topic of a 2008 New York Times story, which detailed agreements she had made with celebrity magazines. That same year, Jolie and partner Brad Pitt negotiated a bidding war with publishers for access to photos of their newborn twins. People, which is owned by Time, Inc., won the rights to publish the first photographs of the infants, in exchange for an estimated $14 million dollars and on the condition that “the magazine was obliged to offer coverage that would not reflect negatively on her or her family,” according to two people involved in the negotiations, who spoke to the Times on the condition of anonymity. A spokesperson from Time, Inc., conceded that a price was paid for the photos but denied that the agreement put conditions on editorial content.

After Jolie divorced Billy Bob Thornton in 2003, Us Magazine requested and was denied an interview with Jolie, but sources involved in the negotiations told the Times that Jolie invited the magazine to photograph her on a public play date with her son, Maddox, “essentially creating a paparazzi shot.”

The resulting photo, the origin of which was not made public to Us readers, presented Ms. Jolie in a new light -- a young mother unsuccessfully trying to have a private moment with her son.

Shifting the focus is one of Ms. Jolie’s best maneuvers, magazine editors and publicity executives say.

In this case, Jolie does not appear to be dodging any negative publicity -- media coverage of the actress in recent years has primarily focused on her career as a film director, her charity work and speculation about when she and Pitt will tie the knot.

On Tuesday, her longtime partner released a statement to the press about the surgery.

"Having witnessed this decision firsthand, I find Angie's choice, as well as many others like her, absolutely heroic, Pitt said, adding, "All I want is for her to have a long and healthy life, with myself and our children.”

In her op-ed, Jolie said that her chances of developing breast cancer had been reduced to 5 percent.

Join the Discussion