Study shows women with BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations significantly reduce their risk of breast and ovarian cancer with preventive surgeries
A long-term study of women with a genetic predisposition for breast or ovarian cancer showed that those who elected major preventive surgeries had a significantly reduced risk of those cancers.
The study, published Sept. 1 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, confirms the view of one of its researchers, 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.
Dr. Tomlinson said that for women with certain genetic mutations, risk-reducing mastectomies and removal of the fallopian tubes and ovaries can be worth it for the women and their families.
"We have believed this for 15 years," said Dr. Tomlinson, "but it's been so controversial - removing organs for cancer risk."
The idea can be jarring unless one considers that the women with the specific genetic mutations, BRCA1 and BRCA2, are seeing people in their family suffering from these cancers one after another, Dr. Tomlinson said. She noted that often these are women with young families and careers to worry about, and the worry about dying from cancer at an early age because of familial predisposition can be overwhelming.
"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.
The study does not address quality of life issues after such radical surgery, and Dr. Tomlinson said that is a concern that must be weighed by the women and their families. But the relief of having that risk taken away is hard to measure.