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Preventative surgeries reduce the risk of ovarian, breast cancer

What would you do?

In a report published in the September 1st issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, a new report states that women who carry the BRCA gene and undergo surgery to remove healthy ovaries and breasts are less likely to develop cancer. Called “preventative surgery,” the removal of healthy organs has been controversial for some, as many people were skeptical that undergoing radical surgeries might actually prevent the eventual onset of breast and other cancers.

The study examined about 2,500 women, all with BRCA gene mutations. The women, from the US, Austria, the Netherlands and England, were all free of cancer at the beginning of the study and most were under the age of fifty. They were studied for a four-year period, during which they received counseling to help them decide whether or not preventative surgery was the best choice for them. Their other choice was more frequent cancer screenings in an effort to detect any cancer in the earliest stages.

A reported 10% of the women chose to have a preventative mastectomy (full removal of the breasts) and 40% chose to have preventative ovary removal. Some women chose to have both removed. Over half of the women studied did not have preventative surgeries at all.

Only one percent of women who had their ovaries removed were eventually diagnosed with ovarian cancer, compared to six percent of women who chose to keep their ovaries. 11% of women who had preventative ovary removal were diagnosed with breast cancer, as opposed to almost 20% of women who kept their ovaries. Only three percent of women who underwent ovary removal died during the study; 10% of the other women died during the four-year period.

The report states that “risk-reducing mastectomy is a highly effective strategy for breast cancer risk reduction,” and that salpingo-oophorectomy, or the removal of ovaries and fallopian tubes, is also effective in preventing the eventual onset of both ovarian and breast cancer. These preventative surgeries were most effective when they occurred prior to a woman turning fifty.

To read the full report, visit http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/304/9/967.

What would you do? On our Facebook page, one young woman said “No way” to preventative surgeries, despite being at high risk of developing breast cancer in the future. Another woman said she would do it, but only after she finished having children so that she could breastfeed. The remaining three women who commented said yes, if they could do something to potentially prevent cancer, they were all for it.

Tell us what you think by leaving us a comment below, and if you like this story, please hit the ‘Like’ button above the comment box! You can also tell us what you would do on our Facebook page or by sending us a Tweet @doyouknowcancer.

One Response to “Preventative surgeries reduce the risk of ovarian, breast cancer”

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