Breast and ovarian cancers are among the leading causes of death in American women today. But are these two cancers connected in some way?

Fox news reports on the new information.

Researchers are saying that if the ovaries are removed then a patient has a higher chance of surviving breast cancer.

Patients with a gene mutation that puts them at a great threat of breast and ovarian cancers have better survival odds if their ovaries and fallopian tubes are taken out soon after a breast cancer diagnosis. This information came out of a new report from Canada.

“Women with the BRCA1 gene mutation who were diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer and had salpingo-oophorectomy (removal of the ovaries) were 62% less likely to die from the cancer over more than a decade, compared to women who didn’t have the procedure,” according to the study.

How much at risk are women with the BRCA mutation?

In JAMA Oncology the researchers said that women with the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations have up to a 70% risk of developing breast cancer during their lifetimes. They are also at a higher risk of getting ovarian cancer.

Previous studies have shown that removing the ovaries and tubes after a breast cancer diagnosis decreased the threat of death for women with the gene mutations, but those studies were small or did not look at the specifics of the cancers, the authors said.

How was the study conducted?

The researchers compared information on 676 women with BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations, who were age 65 or younger and diagnosed with breast cancer between the years of 1977 to 2009. The median age of a patient at the time of diagnosis was forty-two.

Fox reported, “The women were tracked for periods ranging from less than one year, to 20 years. During that time, about 19% of the women died of their cancer.”

The scientists also compared 345 women who had their ovaries removed to around 331 who did not to see the outcome effects. Taking out the ovaries was linked to an overall 62% decreased risk of death from the cancer over about thirteen years. The supposed advantages were greatest when the removal was done soon after the cancer diagnosis.

Researchers were surprised to find that when the ovaries were taken out within two years after a breast cancer diagnosis, the threat of death from cancer was decreased by 735, compared to women who never had the removal surgery.

Patients with BRCA2 mutations did not seem to benefit as much as was expected. Researchers said those cancers may respond differently than cancers in women with the BRCA1 mutation, or perhaps more research is needed.

Fox news reports, “Surprisingly, though, women diagnosed when they were over age 50 – the average age of menopause in BRCA mutation carriers – did benefit from ovary removal. So did women whose breast cancers were not driven by estrogen.”

Researchers are saying that women with either gene mutation should still consider having their ovaries and tubes taken out as a risk-reducing surgery. The surgery will certainly protect women against ovarian cancer.

Gerry Oginski
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