Breast Cancer

Another example of prophylactic surgery is the bilateral mastectomy for women at high risk of developing breast cancer. Before the identification of the BRCA genes, prophylactic mastectomies were typically reserved as an option for women with lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS). However, with the identification of BRCA1 and BRCA2, the role of prophylactic mastectomies has been greatly expanded. For women with BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations, the lifetime probability of breast cancer is between 40% and 85%.41-43 Because mastectomy cannot remove all breast tissue, women can expect a 90% to 94% risk reduction with prophylactic surgery.44 Schrag et al. calculated the estimated gain in life expectancy after prophylactic surgery versus no operation in women with either a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation and found a 30-year-old woman would be expected to gain 2.9 to 5.3 years of life, depending on her family history.45 However, potential benefits of prophylactic mastectomy must be weighed against quality of life issues and the morbidity of the surgery.46 In addition, other methods for prophylaxis, such as tamoxifen chemoprevention or bilateral oophorectomy, must be considered. Along with the increased risk of breast cancer with BRCA1/2 mutations, the risk of ovarian cancer is also increased. Bilateral oophorectomy after childbearing is complete not only reduces the risk of ovarian cancer47 but may also decrease the risk of breast cancer.48 A detailed discussion must be held with each patient considering bilateral mastectomies regarding the risks and benefits, the knowns and unknowns. It is becoming increasingly important that today's surgical oncologist have a clear understanding of genetics and inherited risk.

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