We all face choices and make decisions every day. Some are obviously bigger than others. Should I buy a house? Is now the time to start a family? When you are faced with a healthcare issue though, your choices may seem more overwhelming.
Many women, for instance, who have inherited the BRCA 1 or 2 genes (known cancer genes), are much more likely to develop certain forms of cancer, such as breast or ovarian cancers. But just because you have the cancer gene, does that mean you should consider breast surgery to avoid getting cancer?
Cancer Gene: Should I Consider Breast Surgery?
While only you and your doctor can determine the right option for you, there are some things you should consider. First, just because you have a particular gene (even one that shows a much higher risk), it does not automatically mean that you will get cancer.
People have a lot of inherited genes that may, or may not cause a particular disease state to develop. Certain groups, for instance, have a much higher rate of diabetes, high blood pressure, or other disorders, but that does not mean that it will happen. Only that the odds are higher that it will.
In the case of inherited cancer genes such as the BRAC1 & 2 genes, there is a strong link, but again, it is not a certainly. (Only 5-10% of all breast cancer diagnoses in the United States are related to known cancer genes.) Women with the BRCA 1 gene do have a 55-65% risk of developing breast cancer by age 70. Women with the BRCA 2 gene are roughly 45% more likely to develop breast cancer by the age of 70.
Understanding the statistics
To make this more clear, if you have a group of 100 women who do not have the BRCA 1 or 2 genes, about 8 of those women will develop breast cancer by the age of 85. If you have another group of 100 women, and all of them have the breast cancer gene, 45-65 of them will develop breast cancer. The big thing to understand is that although the risks are much higher, there are many factors that are believed to be related to who develops, or does not develop, breast or other cancers.
Your doctor can talk to you about ways that you can reduce your risks, which may include pre-cancer breast removal to decrease your chances of developing breast cancer. Your doctor will talk to you about your personal and family history.
For instance, if you have had a personal history of certain kinds of cancer such as breast or duct carcinoma in situ (abnormal cells in the milk ducts of the breast that have not spread to other areas of the breast), or DCIS, or received radiation treatment to the chest between the ages of 10 and 30, your risks may be much greater. If your mother or grandmother, or a sister had breast cancer, that is another factor.
In some cases, your physician may recommend a prophylactic (meaning to prevent) mastectomy to lower your risks. Or your doctor may suggest more frequent breast screenings, or certain medications such as raloxifene or tamoxifen to reduce your chances of developing breast cancer. Like any other big decision, you should take the time to do some research. Ask your doctor questions and make sure you understand all of your options before you determine a course of action. Talk to your doctor about your risk factors, as well as side effects, likely outcomes. You should also ask about their specific experience in this area.
The more you know, the better your chances are of making a decision that is right for you. At Intercoastal Medical Group, we help patient navigate the complex world of medicine. Our highly skilled, compassionate providers can guide you as you determine whether or not you should consider breast surgery for the cancer gene, or any other medical topic. Call (941) 362-8662 or request an appointment online today with one of our highly qualified gynecologists today.