Surgery prevents breast cancers in high-risk women

Wed Sep 1, 2010 2:13pm EDT
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By Julie Steenhuysen

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Women with mutations in the well-known BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes who have their breasts and ovaries removed are much more likely to survive than women who do not get preventive surgery, U.S. researchers said on Tuesday.

The study shows the benefits of genetic tests that give women with a family history of cancer the chance to take steps to increase their chances of survival, they said.

"This is the first study to prove women survive longer with these preventive surgeries and shows the importance of genetic testing when there is a family history of early breast or ovarian cancer," Dr. Virginia Kaklamani of Northwestern University in Chicago wrote in a commentary about the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Women with mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes have a 56 to 84 percent higher risk of developing breast cancer during their lifetimes.

Those with the BRCA1 mutation also have a 36 to 63 percent higher risk of ovarian cancer and those with the BRCA2 mutation have a 10 to 27 percent higher risk of ovarian cancer.

Because of this, many women make the difficult choice to have their breasts or ovaries and fallopian tubes surgically removed to reduce their risk.

Dr. Susan M. Domchek of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia and colleagues studied the effectiveness of these procedures in 2,482 women with BRCA mutations, including 247 women who had risk-reducing surgery to remove their breasts and 993 who had risk-reducing surgery to remove their ovaries.

No woman who had a mastectomy developed breast cancer during the three years of follow-up testing.   Continued...

<p>Vasiliki Kostoula, a Greek breast cancer patient, is framed through a breast x-ray after a radiological medical examination in an Athens hospital October 29, 2008. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis</p>