Shalom Life | March 20, 2015

Natalie Portman’s Doctor Father: Angelina Jolie is Saving Women’s Lives

Dr. Avner Hershlag is the chief of the Center for Human Reproduction

By: Ashley Baylen

Published: May 17th, 2013 in Culture » Society » News

Since Angelina Jolie revealed that she underwent a preventive double mastectomy, the actress has received an incredible amount of support from her Hollywood peers and the medical community. Dr. Avner Hershlag, Natalie Portman’s father and the chief of the Center for Human Reproduction at North Shore LIJ, has taken his praise one step further. He believes her bravery will save women’s lives.

"I feel a lot of adulation towards her announcement," Hershlag tells E! News. "She is doing so much service for so many women. Imagine a woman who did not know she should be tested. She sees Angelina's announcement, gets tested today and finds out in a few weeks that she's positive for BRCA. The Angelina announcement could save her life."

Jolie’s grandmother and mother both lost the battle to breast cancer, and now the ‘Tomb Raider’ star is concerned that her three biological children (of a total 6) run the risk of contracting the “cancer gene”.

"There is a 50 percent chance to pass the gene on to your children…It's a statistical risk," Portman's father explains. "The genetics on kids is a big deal from an emotional point of view. When someone tests positive for the mutation it has an implication for the entire family. If someone's positive, their siblings should be tested. If they test negative, that means their children don't risk having the mutation."

"Women with the gene who are seeking to have children or want more children should go to fertility doctors and discuss doing IVF treatments," he says. "We can prevent women passing on the mutation to their children because we can identify the gene in the embryo…We can ensure only the embryos that test negative for the mutation are used for pregnancy."

Jolie also revealed that she may remove her ovaries in order to reduce her risk for ovarian cancer.

"If women are afraid of removing their ovaries, have your eggs frozen. You don't have to use them right away, if at all… Everyone has the BRCA gene. But when someone is affected by it, it means they have a change in the gene, a mutation. There is a BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 mutation. Each of them comes along with an 80% breast cancer over your lifetime and over 30% chance of ovarian cancer."

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