With all the news stories appearing in support of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, BRCA is a hot topic. As we noted last time, the highly publicized decision of some celebrities who carry the BRCA gene mutation, including actress Angelia Jolie, to undergo preventive double mastectomies has influenced more women to seek the same treatment. But cancer treatment experts say that publicity surrounding celebrity cancer prevention and treatment choices has generated an outsized fear of BRCA that is leading some women to take more dire action than may be necessary.
Naturally, each woman’s medical history and prognosis are different; but according to the Mayo Clinic, the BRCA genetic mutation is a causal factor in only about 5% of breast cancers and 10% to 15% of ovarian cancers. Even if you do carry the BRCA gene mutation, a double mastectomy may not be necessary. If you are a breast cancer survivor who does not carry the BRCA gene, your risk of developing cancer in the other breast is typically so low that a double mastectomy may not be medically indicated.
There is concern in the cancer community that fear of BRCA is leading women to make treatment choices without fully exploring all their options. Cancer is a very individualistic disease and each person’s response to cancer and cancer treatment is unique. Your decisions about preventive measures and treatment choices should be made in consultation with your Issels cancer treatment team and designed to address your personal health needs; not based on the treatment that worked for your friend, a family member or a celebrity.