Preventive Mastectomy May Not Lower Risks

FRIDAY March 26, 2010 -- Removing a breast after the other breast has been treated for breast cancer does not improve the odds that women with two genetic mutations will be free of disease or live longer, new research has found.

Women with the mutations -- which affect the genes known as BRCA1 and BRCA2 -- have a much higher risk for developing cancer. Some women choose to have their breasts removed as a preventive measure, called a preventive mastectomy, even without a cancer diagnosis.

Annette Heemskerk-Gerritsen, a graduate student at Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and her colleagues studied 390 women who had the mutation and had developed cancer in one breast. Of the group, 138 had remaining breast tissue removed as a preventive measure.

The recurrence and survival rates between the two groups of women were similar, the study found.

"We hope that our findings will provide additional information to improve the counseling of breast cancer patients considering risk-reducing mastectomy by emphasizing that the gain that may be obtained by this radical surgery is mainly in respect of reducing the risk of contralateral breast cancer," referring to cancer in the opposite breast. Heemskerk-Gerritsen said in a news release from the European Breast Cancer Conference. "As yet, we have found no benefits with respect to disease-free and overall survival."

The study findings were to be released Friday at the conference, in Barcelona, Spain.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has details on BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations.

Posted: March 2010


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