September 1, 2010

Preventive Cancer Surgeries Save Lives

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- A recent study underscores the importance of genetic counseling and testing for women with family history of breast or ovarian cancer.  Research shows women with the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes live longer and virtually eliminate their risk of cancer by having prophylactic surgeries to remove their ovaries and fallopian tubes or their breast in a mastectomy.

"This is the first study to prove women survive longer with these preventative surgeries and shows the importance of genetic testing when there is a family history or early breast or ovarian cancer," Virginia Kaklamani, M.D., the director of translational breast cancer research at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University was quoted as saying.  She is also an associate professor of medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in addition to being an oncologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

"Primary care physicians, gynecologists and women need to be more aware that these tests exist," said Kaklamani. "So if a woman has a family history of ovarian cancer or breast cancer, the woman can be genetically tested. Testing should not start with the oncologist.  That's when patients already have breast cancer.  The primary care doctors and gynecologists are the ones who should evaluate patients and offer them genetic counseling."

BRCA1 and BRCA2 are the source of roughly 10 to 20 percent of breast and ovarian cancers. "Most of these women will die of ovarian cancer, so you can save 20 percent of them with the prophylactic surgery, and you can save the majority of women who would have died of their breast cancer," said Kaklamani.

Options for these preventative surgeries have been improves and it is imperative that women are aware of the progression in preemptive technology.  A laparoscopic salpingo-oophorectomy can be done in an out-patient setting with moderately low-risks, and cosmetic options for women receiving mastectomies have significantly improved.

SOURCE: Journal of the American Medical Association, September 2010.