Until a few days ago, we had been told that women who have a family history of breast cancer combined with mutations in BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes have an 80-percent chance of developing the disease at some point in their lives. Women in this at-risk group have been receiving advice to consider “a bilateral prophylactic mastectomy,” which means having both their still-healthy breasts surgically removed to preempt the possibility that they might develop cancer. Astoundingly, about 20 percent of these women have been opting for the preventative surgery.
Now, a new report just published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reveals the odds are somewhat less than first projected. According to the study, the odds may be as low as 36%. Can you say, “Whoops!?”
A whole lot of women have been lopping off their breasts at a young age — suffering considerable pain and the emotional scars resulting from disfiguring surgery — because they believed they were otherwise doomed. Many of them might have made a different choice had they known the true odds. Granted, a four in ten chance of getting breast cancer is hardly a trifle, but that brings me back to the blog I posted back in October of 2006 revealing that the sky-high risk associated with the mutated genes plummets to 10 percent in the absence of family history. And, as I stated at the time, family history does not necessarily mean fixed genetics. It could easily mean sharing environmental exposure and cancer-producing habits such as living on a farm and being exposed to pesticides, or eating too much dairy, for example. Since environment and habits can be changed, the risk even for women with mutated genes and family history might be reduced considerably by undertaking a new regimen including detoxing, avoiding dairy, and using bio-identical progesterone creams. It’s also worth noting that cutting off your breasts doesn’t necessarily get rid of the cause of the cancer — just one place it might manifest.
It’s disheartening enough that most medical practitioners don’t educate women about these lifestyle options, instead directing their patients to the most radical, “proven” route. But even more disheartening is the fact that scare tactics have driven patients to willingly choose such radical surgery, when we now discover that those tactics were based on false data. Those who elected prophylactic double mastectomy might be distressed to learn that the preventive surgery at best only adds three to six years of life for a 30-year-old woman, and only when she also has her ovaries removed. The cost is high — physically, psychologically, and financially — for less reward than expected.
Reminds us of the good old days (up until today) when women were having hysterectomies as often as manicures. Now we know that many of these operations are highly questionable — even completely unnecessary. Makes you wonder why surgeons are so cut-happy when it comes to women’s body parts.