'Pre-vivors' remove breast to avoid cancer

Oct. 16, 2008 at 1:26 AM
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WAXAHACHIE, Texas, Oct. 15 (UPI) -- "Pre-vivors" -- women who have both breasts removed to avoid the possibility of getting breast cancer -- are on the rise, a U.S. surgeon says.

Valerie Gorman, a breast surgeon on the staff at Baylor Medical Center in Waxahachie, Texas, credits several scientific advances for the growing number of women she sees in her practice who choose mastectomies rather than risk the odds of becoming "survivors" if they were to contract cancer.

"Women today are more educated about their risk factors, and we understand genetics better," Gorman said in a news release Wednesday. "Plus, genetic testing is easier than in the past, and plastic surgery reconstructive procedures are more accessible."

With genetic testing more readily available, more women are learning if they have a defective BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. The tumor suppressor genes are responsible for slowing down cell division.

Defects in these genes can increase a woman's risk of developing breast cancer by up to 80 percent, said a statement by the American Cancer Society. The average woman has roughly a 12.5 percent of contracting breast cancer so an 80 percent increase would raise the chance to about 22 percent -- or a 78 percent chance of not getting breast cancer

However, the risk of breast cancer in women who have mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes can be reduced by a dramatic 90 percent through a bilateral mastectomy, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology in 2004 found.

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