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More High-Risk Women Preempt Breast Cancer
Date:12/3/2008

ve been seeing it for a long time," said Dr. Claudine Isaacs, medical director of the Cancer Assessment and Risk Evaluation Program at Georgetown's Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in Washington, D.C. "There are studies that exist that show [a double mastectomy] is associated with a greater than 90 percent reduction in developing breast cancer."

In addition to having both breasts surgically removed, women intent on prevention can also choose to have their ovaries removed before menopause (which also lowers the risk of ovarian cancer) or for hormonal management taking birth control, tamoxifen or another drug to cut their risk.

Intensive screening is another option, Isaacs said. "This isn't going to prevent it but you hopefully are going to pick it up at its earliest stages," she said.

But the prevention route certainly seems to be gaining acceptance.

"I think what has recently changed is the acceptance of the technology. Genetic testing for breast cancer has been around for a while but wasn't approved by insurance companies," said Dr. Ricardo Meade, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon with Baylor Medical Center in Dallas. "With molecular genetics, you are able to predict your risk for developing breast cancer, also your risk for ovarian cancer. You have unlocked your own genetic code, and you're predicting what the chances are for your future."

"This is very difficult, because the sickness hasn't even come up yet," Meade continued. "All you're seeing is that you might be programmed to potentially develop breast cancer, an 85 percent chance in a lifetime [in the case of a BRCA mutation]. The previvor is the patient that takes action against this and tries to counter this by having the operation before the cells start acting. . . She is potentially avoiding chemotherapy and radiation therapy, and those are two of the hardest things that a human has to go through."

Love learned she had DCIS on Sept. 4,
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