Healthy Women Having Their Breasts Removed
According to a new study conducted in The Netherlands, most young women whose families have multiple cases of breast cancer choose to be tested for the BRCA gene mutations linked to breast and ovarian cancer, and over half who carry the mutations choose to have their healthy breasts removed.
The 51% rate of mastectomy in the study is very high, but it might partly reflect the fact that all of the women included in the study were from families with a known, high incidence of rapidly progressive breast cancer.
Among those women with children and a high risk for carrying a mutation, 83% of those under age 50 chose to be tested, as did 40% of those over 50. The younger mothers were also much more likely to choose to have their breasts removed "prophylactically".
This surgery was standard bilateral simple mastectomy (including the nipple), and was done with simultaneous breast reconstruction on request.
This surgery has been shown by researchers at the Mayo Clinic to produce a 91% risk reduction in second breast cancers in premenopausal women with a family history of breast cancer.
Lancet 2000; 355: 2015 - 2020.