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Preventive Mastectomy: Questions and Answers

Preventive mastectomy facts

*Preventive mastectomy facts medical author: Charles Patrick Davis MD

  • Preventive mastectomy is the surgical removal of breast tissue or the entire breast to reduce or prevent breast cancer; both breasts may undergo surgery.
  • Women may choose preventive mastectomy if they are high risk for breast cancer. Previous breast cancer; strong family history; BRAC1 or BRAC2 genes; lobar carcinoma; radiation therapy to the chest; or diffuse plus indeterminate breast microcalcifications or dense breast tissue that hinders diagnosis put women at higher risk to develop breast cancer.
  • Preventive mastectomy may reduce the chance for breast cancer in some women at moderate or high risk by about 90%.
  • Drawbacks to preventive mastectomy may include infection, bleeding, loss of normal breast function, and psychological effects.
  • Alternatives to preventive mastectomy include close monitoring of breasts for any signs of cancer and treatment with certain medications such as tamoxifen, which is proven to decrease the chances for the high risk person to get breast cancer.
  • Breast reconstruction is a plastic surgery procedure that rebuilds the shape of the breast(s) by several methods including tissue flaps and implants.
  • Follow-up care is needed if breast reconstruction is done to detect any infection and contractures, to determine limitations of activity and exercise, and to monitor the patient for a low potential for recurring cancer and to avoid damage to the reconstructed breast(s).


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