Preventive Mastectomy

Preventive (Prophylactic) mastectomy is a surgery that women undergoes to remove one (unilateral mastectomy) or both (bilateral mastectomy) of the breasts to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer in future. A strong family history of breast cancer or the presence of certain genetic mutations presents high risk of breast cancer.

Women at high-risk can reduce the chances of developing breast cancer by 90% through this surgery. In some cases, lumpectomy (removing a lump from the breast) will be all that's required, rather than removing the whole breast.

Article Title

When to consider this surgery?

It is better to go for preventive mastectomy if:

  • Family history of breast cancer
    If your grandmother, mother, sister or other close blood relative had breast cancer, especially if they were diagnosed before the age 50, you may be at increased risk. Risk is even higher if anyone had a breast cancer from the mother of father’s side.
  • Positive results in genetic testing
    Genetic testing can identify mutations in genes that can significantly increase your risk of breast cancers. Consider gene testing if family history of breast cancer is found. First stage of genetic testing looks at DNA of a relative who has breast cancer or had breast cancer. If the relative's test is positive, predictive or mutation testing is offered.
  • Undergone radiation therapy
    If you had radiation therapy to your chest before the age of 30, you may be at increased risk of developing breast cancer.
  • Dense breast
    If your doctor finds a cluster of micro-calcifications (small deposits of calcium in breast), then there is a possibility of breast cancer. Also dense breast makes it difficult for doctors to diagnose breast cancer. It requires the removal of tissue samples to study under a microscope.
  • Cancer in one breast
    You may decide to have the other, unaffected breast removed, if you had breast cancer in one breast or have a very strong family history of the same.

Is Preventive Mastectomy Effective

Preventive mastectomy drastically reduces the risk of cancer in women upto 90% but can never completely eliminate the risk of breast cancer. The operation aims to remove all breast tissue that could develop breast cancer. Preventive breast cancer surgery may also be considered if a woman has had breast cancer and is therefore at increased risk of developing the disease again in the other breast.

Risks Involved in Preventive Mastectomy

  • Increased risk of infection in the surgical area.
  • Swelling (lymphedema) in your arm.
  • Blood build up under the surgical site.
  • Extra sensitivity to touch.
  • Numbness of the skin.
  • Hard scar tissue formation.
  • Shoulder pain and stiffness.

Making the decision whether to have preventive mastectomy surgery is not urgent. You must weigh all pros and cons along with it’s affect on your life and daily routine. Your breast-health specialist and psychologist will help you make better choices. Before surgery it is advised to consult your surgeon and discuss surgery options, review medical history and determine the best possible plan. This is a good time to ask questions and to make sure you understand the procedure, including the reasons, benefits and risks of the preventive mastectomy surgery.