For women with a certain predisposition for breast cancer, preventive surgery includes removing the breasts. A recent study shows that women who had their breasts removed have less risk of developing this disease. Should woman get surgery for breast cancer prevention?
There is now an ability to test for mutations in certain genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, that increase a woman’s risk for breast cancer. A woman who has the gene mutation has a 35-85 percent chance of developing breast cancer by age 70, according to the Mayo Clinic. 5-10 percent of breast cancers are caused by these gene mutations.
Preventive surgery is only one method suggested for woman who are at moderate to high risk of developing breast cancer. A recent study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association shows that women that have the specific gene mutations and who have undergone mastectomy, removal of the breasts, have less risk of developing breast cancer.
Points to Consider Before Getting Surgery for Breast Cancer Prevention. If a woman is found to be positive for certain gene mutations so are at higher risk for developing breast cancer, she may consider have a mastectomy on both breasts. Although it has been shown to be helpful in preventing breast cancer, surgery may not be the best option for everyone.
In addition to basic concerns of surgery and the cosmetic aspect of breast removal, there is more to consider.
-Not all women who have the gene mutations will develop breast cancer. Not all women with the gene mutations and have the surgery will remain cancer free.
-Breast tissue may remain in hard to find areas after surgery which can still become cancerous. A study published in the New England Journal of medicine showed a 10 percent chance of developing breast cancer even after preventive surgery.
-Surveillance was increased for women in the studies. Although the actual cases of breast cancer were reduced, increased surveillance and early detection can increase survival odds for those who develop breast cancer.
Surgery for Breast Cancer Prevention. Even though recent studies show that surgery for breast cancer prevention decreases the risk of developing breast cancer, you should talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits of surgery for breast cancer prevention.
Mayo Clinic; Prophylactic mastectomy: Breast cancer prevention for high-risk women
Susan M. Domchek, MD, et al.; Association of Risk-Reducing Surgery in BRCA1 o BRCA2 Mutation Carriers with Cancer Risk and Mortality; The Journal of the American Medical Association
Robert M. Hamm, Ph.D, et al.; Prophylactic Mastectomy in Women with a High Risk of Breast Cancer; letter in response to study in New England Journal of Medicine
National Cancer Institute; BRCA1 and BRCA2: Cancer Risk and Genetic Testing