If you choose to have a mastectomy before any sign of cancer is found, this is called a prophylactic
(or preventive) mastectomy. Factors such as your family history, personal medical history and genetic makeup will determine your level
of risk. Understanding your risk level and discussing that with your doctor will help you appreciate risk-reducing strategies,
including prophylactic mastectomy.
All women carry a risk of breast cancer, particularly as they grow older. However, certain factors can increase your risk
and may make you a candidate for prophylactic mastectomy. These factors may include but are not limited to the following:
- You've already had a cancer in one breast. If you have a family history of breast cancer and have
developed cancer in only one of your breasts, you may opt to have both breasts removed. In this case, one breast is
removed to expel the cancer and the other, unaffected breast, is removed to reduce the development of breast cancer in it.
- You have a family history of breast cancer. If two or more members of your family have developed breast
cancer at a relatively young age (under age 50 or in their premenopausal years), you have a significant family history that
puts you at risk for breast cancer. This predisposition could come from either your mother's, or father's, side of the family.
With this family history, some studies have shown a prophylactic mastectomy could reduce your risk by as much as 90%.1
- You have tested positive for the hereditary gene. If genetic testing shows a mutation in genes associated
with breast cancer (BRCA1 or BRCA2), you have a 40% to 85% chance of developing breast cancer by age 70. With this type of
result from genetic testing, a prophylactic mastectomy could greatly reduce your risk.2
- You have found early signs of breast cancer. One of the early signs of breast cancer is precancerous,
or abnormal cells present in the milk producing glands (the lobules) of your breast
(a condition called lobular carcinoma in situ). These are not cancerous, but can
indicate an increased risk of developing breast cancer in your lifetime.3
- You have not had a child. There is evidence to suggest that not having children may increase
your risk of developing breast cancer.4
- You have had children later in life. There is evidence to suggest that waiting to have
children places you at a higher risk than someone who has decided to have children at an earlier age.5
1 Prophylactic Mastectomy. www.breastreconstruction.org. August 13, 2008.
2 Breast/Ovarian Cancer: BRCA1 & BRCA2. www.mskcc.org. January 5, 2009.
3 Prophylactic mastectomy: Breast cancer prevention for high-risk women. www.mayoclinic.com. November 30, 2007.
4 Pregnancy and Breast Cancer Risk. www.cancer.gov. April 30, 2008.
5 Pregnancy and Breast Cancer Risk. www.cancer.gov. April 30, 2008.