When Leslie Anderson learned she had the BRCA gene, she knew it meant she had an extremely high risk of developing breast cancer. Anderson weighed her options- and took an aggressive step.
“I made an appoint with a physician and discussed the option of doing a prophylactic mastectomy. To totally wipe out that risk,” says Leslie Anderson.
“A prophylactic mastectomy basically is a mastectomy performed for an individual that does not have a cancer,” says Dr. Lea Blackwell, surgical breast oncologist on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.
An increasing number of women who never had a cancer diagnosis are getting breasts removed based on genetic risk. Experts believe it’s reasonable for those who are BRCA positive. But the trend is expanding.
“When someone has a breast cancer and they have elected to do a mastectomy a lot of times they’ll ask ‘what about the other breast?’ When you remove that other breast we call that a contralateral prophylactic mastectomy. Removing the opposite side of the breast to prevent a breast cancer in the future,” says Dr. Blackwell.
A few decades ago women were inclined to hold on to their breasts unless it was absolutely necessary. Nowadays there is much less resistance to mastectomy. Driving forces are anxiety over the risk of breast cancer and improvements in reconstruction.
“I feel like it’s a personal decision. They don’t have to have that done, but if they want it done then that can be done for them,” says Dr. Blackwell.
Researchers found the rise in double mastectomy doesn’t match people’s expectation of reoccurrence.
“A lot of people predicted 50 percent 70 percent, pretty high prediction. And actually the real number is probably about 20 to 30 percent,” says Dr. Blackwell.
Anderson is among the minority, who understood her risk had both breasts removed with both eyes open.
“There was never a doubt in my mind from the very beginning, I knew that was going to be my choice,” says Anderson.