Some young women who have a particularly high risk for breast and ovarian cancer decide, together with their medical team, to have risk-reducing surgery. This kind of operation removes body tissue most likely to be at risk for cancer and can be done on both breast and ovarian tissue.
These surgeries can never give you 100% protection from cancer, because it’s impossible to remove every single breast and ovarian cell. But, they can significantly reduce your chances of developing breast and ovarian cancer. This is a big, and very personal, decision, so be sure to learn as much as you can, and discuss all your options with your doctors.
Some women who are at very high risk for breast cancer have their breast tissue surgically removed through a prophylactic (or risk-reducing) mastectomy.
The good news: studies show you can reduce your risk of developing breast cancer by 95%, and you have options for reconstructive surgery afterward. Some consequences to consider: you will likely lose normal sensation in the breast and won’t be able to breastfeed.
To make the best decision about whether to have a prophylactic mastectomy, you should understand your options for reconstruction.This surgery can closely rebuild the natural shape of your breast—though not exactly.
It’s also important to understand that breast reconstruction is a major procedure that includes a series of surgeries. You and your doctor should work together to make decisions about the best procedure for you, including whether to use saline or silicone implants, or borrow tissue from somewhere else in your body.
Learn more by downloading Cancer Support Community’s comprehensive guide written in partnership with Bright Pink.
There are also risk-reducing surgeries for women at high risk for ovarian cancer.
Called a prophylactic oophorectomy, this surgery removes one or both healthy ovaries. Sometimes, surgeons also remove the fallopian tubes (called a bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy), due to the risk of similar cancer there.
This surgery is also a big, personal decision. Young, pre-menopausal women will go through “the change” after the operation, which is a major side effect. So, to make the best decision for you, talk to your doctor and genetic counselor about your unique situation and be sure to weigh all the pros and cons.