When Angelina Jolie revealed that she had had a double mastectomy to lessen her chances of developing the cancer that killed her mother, she was praised across the world for her courage.
But in some corners of the internet, her announcement was greeted only with cruelty.
Callous Twitter users branded her a 'drama queen' and an 'attention seeker', with some suggesting her decision was a publicity stunt and others making crude jokes about her breasts.
Jolie, 37, revealed she had had the surgery in an article for the New York Times, explaining she was making her decision public in the hope it would raise awareness and help other women.
Her mother died of cancer at 56, and Miss Jolie said she had had her breasts removed to reassure her six children that the same wouldn't happen to her. Tests revealed she had a faulty gene which gave her an 87 per cent chance of developing breast cancer. Having a mastectomy has reduced that to 5 per cent.
She underwent three months of treatment, which ended with reconstructive surgery last month.
While campaigners and charities praised her decision to go public, Twitter users soon began making vile jokes.
One asked: 'Can you buy Angelina Jolie's boobs on eBay?' Another wrote: 'So did they just throw Angelina Jolie's boobs away or are they like in a jar or something? (Asking for a friend).'
And columnist Brendan O'Neill wrote a scathing piece on the Huffington Post website, saying it was 'expected' for celebrities to talk about their health. He said: 'The praise being heaped on Ms Jolie, not for having surgery but for talking about it, overlooks the fact that it is now de rigueur for celebrities to talk openly about their ailments.
'From Jade Goody having her cancer diagnosed on Indian TV to Kerry Katona doing interviews about her bipolar disorder to Stephen Fry writing about his depression ... in both the tabloid and high-brow sections of the celebrity world, talking about being sick is not only increasingly acceptable - it's expected.' Last night campaigners said that those responsible for making abusive comments were 'an absolute disgrace'.
Wendy Watson, founder of the National Hereditary Breast Cancer Helpline, said: 'It is such a shame that someone who has put together such a wonderful piece should have to suffer anything from idiots like that. I think they are an absolute disgrace. They are idiotic and puerile. They shouldn't be allowed to be on these social networking sites.'
She added: 'I really applaud her for doing it, it's raising the profile that nobody like myself or anybody else could do. People will probably not be so scared, [they will] pick up the phone and be screened.
'It is a very personal decision and one that wouldn't have been taken lightly.
'She did it to help save lives. Angelina has been wonderful.' Miss Jolie is now expected to have a hysterectomy and an oophorectomy, in which the ovaries are removed.
Her fiancé, Brad Pitt, said: 'Having witnessed this decision first hand, I find Angie's choice, as well as so many others like her, absolutely heroic.'
On Wednesday he was seen in public for the first time since the announcement. Instead of his usual chiselled look, he appeared fuller in the face and a little tired as he went to a meeting in Hollywood.
- Daily Mail