Genetic Concerns Prompting More Double Mastectomies

Posted by North Texas Cancer Center at Wise on August 17th, 2016

There’s good and bad news on the breast cancer front as more women choose to undergo genetic screening. The rise in testing itself is excellent news as results can greatly influence decision-making in regard to treatment and preventative measures for potential recurrences or the appearance of related cancers. The bad news, however, is that more women are opting for double mastectomies even if the results of genetic testing don’t quite indicate the necessity.

Genetic testing to determine the presence or absence of BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations has become extremely popular with good reason. These tests can help women and their doctors gauge the likelihood of recurrence in the second, initially unaffected breast. They may also indicate concerns about the potential for ovarian cancer arising down the road. The testing is fast becoming widely recommended because of the prognostic value it holds.

While double mastectomies immediately followed by reconstructive surgery may be recommended in cases where genetic testing indicates a need, many women are opting to walk this path even with negative genetic test results. A recent study found that the frequency of genetic testing rose about 77 percent from 2006 to 2013. A large percentage of these women opted for double mastectomies with or without the presence of genetic mutations.

Double mastectomies as a prophylactic measure have gained in popularity since the famous diagnosis of Angelina Jolie. The Hollywood icon opted for the more aggressive treatment, popularizing the move. Some healthcare providers, however, are finding themselves a bit concerned about this choice when it is not 100 percent necessary. Double mastectomies can lead to such complications as infection and bleeding. Second surgeries may be required to address the complications.

The bottom line, some healthcare providers say, is that genetic testing is very valuable for helping women diagnosed with breast cancer understand their full risks. Actions taken following diagnosis and genetic testing results, however, should be carefully weighed before final decisions are made. Preventative measures that arise courtesy of more aggressive surgery may not always be required or even advised.

An estimated 246,000 American women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer this year alone. Some 40,000 women will die from the disease. Routine screening is critical for helping increase early detection and survival rates. Women who are diagnosed with the disease should discuss all treatment options and genetic testing with their healthcare providers. Should positive genetic results present, women should talk about the implications with a genetic counselor or doctor before making treatment decisions.

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North Texas Cancer Center at Wise, a division of Choice Cancer Care, is now operating as the Cancer Center at Wise Regional and is one of the most renowned cancer treatment centers in Texas.

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North Texas Cancer Center at Wise

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North Texas Cancer Center at Wise
Joined: February 24th, 2016
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