Preventive removal of both breasts reduces chance of breast cancer in women at elevated risk

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“Prophylactic mastectomy appears very effective in preventing breast cancer but choosing this procedure is a complex decision,” said Ann M. Geiger, PhD, lead author of the study. “Prophylactic mastectomy prevents breast cancer but also carries a risk of complications and may impact a woman’s psychosocial health. We suggest a woman considering the procedure talk to her doctor, family and friends, and get genetic counseling to help her understand her risk of breast cancer and learn about all her options. In addition to prophylactic mastectomy, women may choose to manage their risk with tamoxifen, prophylactic oophorectomy, regular mammograms and possibly MRI.”

The study included females from a variety of health plans. Each woman was between 18 and 80 years of age and was at risk for breast cancer. Risk factors included family history of breast cancer, personal history of the sometimes pre-cancerous condition of atypical hyperplasia, and at least one benign breast biopsy.

The multicenter study was performed at the six plans of the National Cancer Institute-funded Cancer Research Network. Composed of integrated healthcare delivery systems, the Cancer Research Network uses its considerable resources to research and improve cancer prevention and treatment.