Angelina Double Mastectomy: Natalie Portman's Doctor Father Praises Actress, Explains BRCA Gene

"She is doing so much service for so many women," Dr. Avner Hershlag tells E! News

By Marcus Mulick, Alyssa Toomey May 17, 2013 1:30 AMTags
Angelina Jolie, MaddoxAKM-GSI

Many have spoken out in support of Angelina Jolie after the actress bravely revealed she underwent a preventive double mastectomy.

And Natalie Portman's dad is no exception.

Dr. Avner Hershlag, chief of the Center for Human Reproduction at North Shore LIJ and father to the Black Swan actress, tells E! News he has the utmost respect for Brad Pitt's other half and also shares his own medical insight as Jolie continues the preemptive cancer treatment. 

"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."

Which is exactly what the mother of six intended.

Although Jolie has taken positive steps to keep herself cancer free, there's still the question of the disease potentially affecting her three biological children. 

"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."

If upon testing, you do discover the genetic mutation, Hershlag insists having kids is not out of the question.

"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 shared her plans to remove her ovaries in order to drastically reduce her risk of ovarian cancer, and Hershlag suggests having your eggs frozen if you're concerned about doing the same.

"If women are afraid of removing their ovaries, have your eggs frozen. You don't have to use them right away, if at all," he said before clarifying. "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." 

And just like that, thanks to Jolie's efforts, we're much more informed about our health.