Monday, September 6, 2010

Mastectomy Prevents Breast Cancer for Women at High Risk

Preventive mastectomy and ovarectomy are now confirmed to lower the chances of cancer for women with the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations. The reduced risk of breast cancer from mastectomy has been controversial, but new research shows women at high risk can protect themselves from breast cancer with preventive surgery.

According to Gail Tomlinson, M.D., Ph.D., interim director of the Greehey Children's Cancer Research Institute at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, "We have believed this for 15 years," said Dr. Tomlinson, "but it's been so controversial — removing organs for cancer risk."

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association followed approximately 2,500 women at higher risk for breast or ovarian cancer because of BRAC1 and BRAC2 genetic mutations,  between 1974 and 2008.

Thirteen out of  1,372 women who did not have preventive surgery were diagnosed with breast cancer. Of 247 women electing to have cancer preventing mastectomies, none developed breast cancer.

"This is a compromise women are willing to accept and their husbands are willing to accept, because the whole family worries about whether the women are going to get breast cancer," Dr. Tomlinson said.

Dr. Tomlinson is developing a genetic counselling program at the Cancer Therapy & Research Center at the UT Health Science Center, in hopes of helping families understand their understanding of risk factors for other types of cancer as well.

Tomlinson notes that being faced with cancer or mastectomy is a difficult decision, as is the worry of developing breast cancer - especially for young women with careers and families. Preventive mastectomy and removal of ovaries is an option shown in the study that can stop breast cancer for women with the BRAC1 and BRAC2 mutations.