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Cancer Care: Prophylactic Mastectomy

Cancer Care: Prophylactic Mastectomy

If you are at high risk of developing breast cancer, you may be thinking about how you could lower your risk. Anita Minghini, MD, surgeon and medical director of the Valley Health Breast Center, answers questions about prophylactic mastectomy, a surgery some patients consider to reduce their risk of developing breast cancer.

Please talk with your doctor about your personal breast cancer risk and prevention strategy.

What is a prophylactic mastectomy?

A prophylactic mastectomy is a surgical procedure to remove a breast, usually with the intention of preventing cancer.

Who needs a prophylactic mastectomy?

Patients who are at very high risk to develop breast cancer sometimes choose prophylactic mastectomy. An example of this would be the actress Angelina Jolie, who had a genetic mutation (BRCA1) that predicted lifetime risk of breast cancer of up to 85%.

Who else might have a prophylactic mastectomy?

Some patients who need a therapeutic mastectomy to treat breast cancer may also request having the other breast removed. Reasons for this could include the desire to have a symmetric appearance, or the hope to avoid yearly mammograms or to decrease anxiety about another breast cancer.

Do insurance companies pay for prophylactic mastectomy?

In certain medical situations, with pre-approval, this surgery is covered by insurance companies.

If I had a mastectomy for cancer in the past, should I now consider a prophylactic mastectomy?

Medical decisions like this should be discussed with your physician, but most patients do not require a prophylactic mastectomy. If a person has already had one breast cancer, the chance of new cancer in the other breast is approximately 0.5% per year, lower than what most people expect.

Could prophylactic mastectomy cause harm?

It is known that a bilateral mastectomy increases the chance of surgical complications. In a patient who is expected to need additional cancer treatment after surgical recovery, it is recommended that prophylactic mastectomy be delayed or avoided.

The Valley Health Cancer Center at Winchester Medical Center has a dedicated Breast Center and a comprehensive, nationally accredited breast care program. The Breast Center offers a comprehensive high-risk breast clinic for women who want to learn more about their individual lifetime risk of developing breast cancer. This may include women with dense breasts and/or women with a family history of breast cancers.

Call 540-536-5466 to learn more. Click here to learn more about Cancer Care at Valley Health.