Preventative Surgery May Halt Two Types of Cancer in Women

Cancer of the breast and ovaries are two serious diseases that kill tens of thousands of women each year. Approximately one in four hundred women have a predisposition for a higher risk of breast and ovarian cancer due to a genetic mutation. According to the New York Times, new research may sway doctors to recommend prophylactic mastectomies and oophorectomies—or removal of the ovaries—to these women before there are any signs of cancer.

During a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, scientists followed 2,482 women who inherited the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations. The women, who underwent genetic testing between 1974 and 2008, were tracked down in 2009.

Within three years of follow-up, none of the subjects who underwent a preventative mastectomy and only one percent who had their ovaries removed were diagnosed with cancer. On the contrary, seven percent of women who did not have a mastectomy developed breast cancer and six percent of women who underwent an oophorectomy were diagnoses with ovarian cancer.

The study, which was executed by Timothy R. Rebbeck, M.D., professor of epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, shows that preventative surgery can provide remarkable protection. While cancer can still develop from tissue that has not been removed, the study is a step in the right direction.

“It’s crucial for women to understand: this is their best chance to reduce risk,” said Dr. Rebbeck. “It’s very strong and nearly complete, but it’s not 100 percent. If you’re at high risk, this maximizes your chances of survival.”

To Your Health & Beauty,

Vipul R. Dev, M.D.


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