A prophylactic mastectomy is a surgery to remove one or both healthy breasts to reduce one’s risk of developing breast cancer. This procedure is a common and increasing trend within the breast cancer community today, and for good reason. According to the National Cancer Institute, prophylactic mastectomies in high risk women may decrease their breast cancer risk by upwards of 90%.
Therefore, who is considered high risk? There are various accepted measures that indicate one’s risk for breast cancer, and possessing any or all will likely put you in a high risk category in which risk reducing measures can or should be considered. The following is a list of accepted high risk indicators for breast cancer:
- Strong family history – mother, sister, aunt, grandmother
- Tested positive for BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations
- Personal history of breast cancer – have or had in other breast
- Radiation therapy to the chest prior to the age 30
What does a prophylactic mastectomy entail? A prophylactic mastectomy is a simple or total mastectomy in which the breast tissue is completely removed, avoiding dissection of the axillary lymph nodes. It may be skin or nipple sparing as well. Similar to standard mastectomies, a prophylactic mastectomy runs the same surgical risks and physiological outcomes.
Breast reconstruction is also an option for those undergoing prophylactic mastectomies. As with any type of mastectomy, there are various methods of reconstruction that may take place at any stage of the process, although immediate reconstruction with a skin and nipple sparing mastectomy offers the most aesthetically pleasing result.
If you have any of the high risk factors for breast cancer, speak with your healthcare provider about considering risk reducing methods such as prophylactic mastectomy. Remember, all risk reducing measures are risk reducing, not risk canceling, and is never a guarantee that breast cancer cannot or will not develop.