Double mastectomy a no-brainer for some

by Dana Zakalik, M.D., Director, Cancer Genetics, Beaumont Health System

Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie recently announced that she underwent a double mastectomy after doctors estimated she had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer. In her New York Times article, Jolie admitted to carrying, ” a ‘faulty’ gene, BRCA1, which sharply increases my risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer.”

Angelia Jolie

(Photo credit: Reuters)

For some women who wish to maximally reduce their risk of breast cancer or who have a personal experience of seeing cancer take a loved one’s life, it’s a no-brainer.

Exactly how common is a double (or bilateral) mastectomy? It is fairly common in the U.S. to do the double mastectomy, although the numbers vary between institutions. The risk of breast cancer is very high and bilateral mastectomy offers the most significant risk reduction.

Of course, the decision isn’t always an easy one. We spend a long time with each patient discussing the pros and cons of bilateral mastectomy versus the high risk surveillance with MRI’s, as well as the limitations of screening. Patients ultimately make the choice of what is right for them.

About 5 – 10 percent of cancers may be hereditary, or due to a damaged (or mutant) gene that is passed down from parent to child. Certain aspects of one’s family history may be indicative of an inherited cancer predisposition.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with Beaumont’s Cancer Genetics Program, call 248-551-3388.

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