Double mastectomy increases survival chances in women with breast cancer gene

21 March 2018 08:38

Having a double mastectomy reduces the risk of premature death in healthy women carrying a breast cancer gene

Having a double mastectomy reduces the risk of premature death in healthy women carrying a breast cancer gene

Having a double mastectomy reduces the risk of premature death in healthy women carrying a breast cancer gene, new research has revealed.

For women with the mutant BRCA1 gene, removal of both breasts also lowered their risk of developing breast cancer.

The same study found, however, that undergoing a double mastectomy, or bilateral risk-reducing mastectomy (BRRM), made no difference to the life expectancy of women with another faulty gene, mutant BRCA2.

Chance of breast cancer increases 72%

Both mutant versions of BRCA1 and BRCA2 greatly increase the chances of women developing breast cancer.

An estimated 72% of BRCA1 mutation carriers and 69% of women with BRCA2 mutations can expect to develop breast cancer by the age of 80, compared with 12% of the general population.

In May 2013, Hollywood star Angelina Jolie had both her breasts removed after discovering she carried the BRCA1 gene.

Two years later, she had her ovaries removed, as BRCA mutations also raise the risk of ovarian cancer.

The new study, conducted in the Netherlands, tracked the progress of 1,696 BRCA1 mutation carriers and 1,139 BRCA2 mutation carriers who opted either for BRRM or careful surveillance. All the women were healthy with no previous history of cancer.

Over a period of nine to 11 years, seven of the BRCA1 carriers who had undergone double mastectomies and 269 of those who chose not to have the procedure were diagnosed with breast cancer.

Just one of the BRRM group died from breast cancer during the follow-up period, compared with 19 from the surveillance group.

BRRM "drastically reduces the risk of developing cancer"

For BRCA2 mutation carriers, the risk of dying was low, whether or not their breasts had been surgically removed.

Lead researcher Dr Annetee Heemskerk-Gerritsen said: "For BRCA1 mutation carriers, bilateral risk-reducing mastectomy not only drastically reduces the risk of developing breast cancer, but, as a consequence, also improves breast cancer-specific survival when compared to surveillance.

"For BRCA2 mutation carriers, however, BRRM seems to lad to similar breast cancer-specific survival, despite the reduced breast cancer risk."

"We observed that BRCA2-associated breast cancers were diagnosed with more favourable characteristics than BRCA1-associated cancers," she added.

BRCA2 cancers tended to be diagnosed at an older age, for example, and had more in common with normal cells. They were also more likely to be hormone-sensitive.

We offer a range of medical travel insurance packages. Get your specific insurance here before going on holiday.

Share this on Facebook Tweet this Share this on LinkedIn Email this