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Preventive Breast Surgery: Here's What You Need to Know

About 1 in 8 American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. It’s the most common type of cancer affecting women after skin cancers.

Every woman is at risk for developing breast cancer simply by being female, but some women are at greater risk than others. Understanding your risk factors helps you make informed decisions about your health care. 

The best way to prevent and detect early stage breast cancer is by getting regular mammograms. The American Cancer Society recommends that women over age 45 get a mammogram every year or two, but your risk level influences how often you need this preventive screening.

Elvira Klause, MD, FACS, and our surgical team specialize in breast surgery and cancer treatment. This October, we’re taking a closer look at one preventive option — prophylactic mastectomy — in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Prophylactic mastectomy, or preventive breast surgery, is a procedure to remove one or both breasts in an effort to prevent cancer from developing. Preventive surgery might sound extreme, but it can be a good option for women who have a very high risk of breast cancer.

Your preventive breast surgery options

Your risk for developing breast cancer is determined by your personal and family history, along with mammogram results and possibly genetic testing. 

Having a high risk of breast cancer doesn’t automatically mean you’ll get cancer, but it does mean that your risk of cancer is significantly higher than someone with an average risk. 

If you have a high risk of breast cancer, preventive surgery could be an option for you. Mastectomy is the surgical removal of one or both breasts, and while it’s often recommended as a cancer treatment, it can be done to prevent cancer as well.

Several different types of mastectomy are available, and Dr. Klause works with you to select the right type of surgery. Depending on your situation, we may remove part or all of your breast tissue, along with the nipple and areola. 

If you’re having a mastectomy in one breast that has cancer, you can choose to have the other removed for preventive reasons.

Breast biopsies are minimally invasive procedures that also have preventive benefits. If you had abnormal mammogram results or discovered a lump in your breast, a biopsy allows Dr. Klause to determine if cancerous cells are present. 

Biopsy eliminates the need for more invasive treatments if the results are noncancerous.

When to consider preventive breast surgery

If you’re identified as high-risk, choosing preventive breast surgery could reduce your risk of breast cancer. Every woman is different, so you should understand your risk factors before you make a decision.

Women who may benefit the most from prophylactic breast surgery include those who:

If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer in one breast, having the other removed significantly reduces your risk of a cancer diagnosis in the future. Additionally, women who have a mother, sister, or daughter who’s been diagnosed with breast cancer are at greater risk themselves.

Prophylactic mastectomy is a major, irreversible surgery. It can reduce the risk of breast cancer in some women by up to 95%, but it isn’t without risks and it doesn’t guarantee that you won’t develop breast cancer in the future.

Talk to Dr. Klause and your health care team to help you understand what preventive treatment is right for you. Several medications are available to block the effects of estrogen on your body and reduce your risk of breast cancer without surgery.

Living a healthy lifestyle and maintaining a healthy weight can also help prevent cancer. A healthy diet may reduce your risk of breast and other cancers, along with other health conditions like diabetes and heart disease.

Choosing preventive breast surgery could be your best option for avoiding breast cancer if you’re high risk. Learn more about your options by scheduling a consultation with Dr. Klause. Call our office at 949-276-8050 or request an appointment online.

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