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Women With Breast Cancer Gene Favor Preventive Mastectomy

Most carriers view the procedure as best security against the disease, study finds

MONDAY, March 9 (HealthDay News) -- Women who know they carry a gene that puts them at higher risk of breast cancer tend to opt for preventive mastectomy, a new study concludes.

Several type of risk management strategies are available to women found to have a mutated BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, which is known to elevate a woman's risk of breast cancer. These range from simply having more frequent screening exams to the preemptive removal of a breast.

Researchers at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston interviewed women who were tested for the mutation. They researchers found that roughly two-thirds of women who tested positive for the BRCA mutation believed that a preventive mastectomy was the most effective way to prevent breast cancer from developing or reduce their worry about the disease.

Only 40 percent of women who tested negative for the mutation saw the surgery as the best preventative and only a third thought the procedure was the best way to alleviate their worry about having breast cancer.

"Health care providers and genetic counselors must take this into account when assessing a woman's needs at the time of genetic testing and results disclosure," the authors wrote in the April 15 issue of Cancer.

The researchers found that 81 percent of women who saw preventive mastectomy as the best way to reduce cancer risk ended up having the procedure after testing positive. Slightly more (84.2 percent) had the surgery if they viewed it as the only way to reduce worry about possible breast cancer.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about breast cancer .

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: American Cancer Society, news release, March 9, 2009

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