Breast cancer is a common form of cancer in women. 1 in 8 U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. According to breastcancer.org, a woman’s risk of breast cancer doubles if she has a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. A family history of breast cancer constitutes more than one relative that has had breast cancer, especially before age 50. Genetics play a large role in the development of breast cancer later in life.
Signs of breast cancer may include lumps in the breast, changing of the shape of the breast or dimpling of the skin, fluid coming from the nipple, or a red scaly patch of skin. The most noticeable symptom of breast cancer is a lump. Breast cancer can be detected early via a mammogram. If left untreated, it can present itself as a metastatic disease – cancer that has spread beyond the breast itself.
If you are at high risk of developing breast cancer, you might be exploring possible ways that you can reduce this risk. Prophylactic mastectomy is surgery to remove one or both breasts to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. While prophylactic mastectomy can significantly the reduce risk of developing breast cancer, this surgery is also a serious choice that can have a considerable impact, with factors such as body image and potential complications to consider.
“According to the National Cancer Institute, prophylactic mastectomy in women who carry a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation may be able to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer by 95%. In women with a strong family history of breast cancer, prophylactic mastectomy can reduce the risk of breast cancer development by up to 90%.” Breastcancer.org
It was discovered that women who inherit a deleterious mutation in the BRCA1 gene or the BRCA2 gene or mutations have a greatly increased risk of developing breast cancer. Prophylactic mastectomies can reduce the risk of breast cancer development by up to 90%
There are several types of mastectomies, the most common being a simple or total mastectomy, where the surgeon removes the entire breast, including the nipple, but does not remove underarm lymph nodes or muscle tissue from beneath the breast. For those that want to further mitigate the risk of breast cancer, a double mastectomy is completed, whereby both breasts are removed. For some women considering breast reconstruction, a skin-sparing mastectomy can be completed, whereby most of the skin over the breast is left intact. Implants or tissue from other parts of the body are then used to reconstruct the breast.
Although mastectomies may come with certain negatives, such as perceived body image, mitigating the risk may often far outweigh the cons. There are ways to mitigate the negatives – for example, with decreased perceived body image, there are breast augmentation options such as reconstruction or breast prosthesis. This is a breast form made of silicone gel, foam or other materials that is fitted to your chest.
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