Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of death in American women today. Experts are constantly studying the disease to figure out why it is so prevalent and how they can decrease breast cancer rates. Now one group of researchers has a new warning out for women.

Reuters reports that with gene mutations a second breast cancer risk rises over time. So does this mean that women who are genetically susceptible to breast cancer and have it in one breast have more of a chance of getting it again?

Yes, researchers say that if a woman has a genetic predisposition for breast cancer and/or develop it in one breast has a higher chance of developing breast cancer in her other breast as well.

Experts found that mutations in the BRCA 1 or 2 genes raise the risk for numerous types of cancer and account for 5 percent to 10 percent of breast cancers. This information was provided by the National Cancer Institute.

How was the study conducted?

Researchers reviewed twenty studies of the danger of cancer in the second breast of BRCA 1 and 2 carriers.

What were the results?

Experts found that for breast cancer patients with the BRCA 1 mutation, the danger of a cancer in the opposite breast rose from 15 percent at five years after diagnosis to 27 percent at 10 years and 33 percent at 15 years.

Reuters further explains the results,

“For the BRCA 2 mutation, the risk increased from nine percent at five years to 19 percent at 10 years to 23 percent at 15 years. For women with neither mutation, the risk of cancer in the opposite breast stayed low at 3 percent and 5 percent at the five and 10 year marks, according to results in the journal The Breast. There wasn’t enough data to estimate the 15-year risk in this group, the authors write.”

Many experts are emphasizing the importance of women getting tested for the BRCA gene. Despite the mass media that has been focused on the significance of the gene, many women are still not getting tested for it. And knowing whether or not one has the gene could be the difference between saving one’s life. Experts are particularly emphasizing the importance of checking for the gene if a woman had a mother or a grandmother who suffered from breast cancer.

One expert physician (Dr. Yao) who did not take part in the study told Reuters that even though the danger for cancer of the second breast is much greater for BRCA carriers, it still means there is a 70 to 80 percent chance that they will not develop breast cancer 10 to 15 years later.

Dr. Yao also told Reuters,

“(Women) should be concerned but also realize that we have very effective ways to monitor the breast with breast MRI and mammograms which detect cancer at an early stage (small size, node negative) and at a stage that is easily treatable and has a good prognosis.”

Another doctor who led a study, which found that removing a non-infected breast was not helpful in preventing the spread of cancer (for women who do not have the BRCA mutation), had his own take on the study. He finds that for these women should consider a mastectomy.

Dr. Tuttle also said, “I think most of these women should strongly consider contralateral prophylactic mastectomy because their risk of contralateral breast cancer is so high. However, there are some groups of patients who may not benefit from that procedure including those patients who have a high stage first cancer and those who have other considerable medical problems.”


Gerry Oginski
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