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Bilateral prophylactic mastectomy: issues and concerns.

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  • 1Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins Oncology Center, Baltimore, Md., USA.


At present, the care of women at increased risk of developing breast cancer poses a clinical dilemma and remains an area of controversy. A number of investigators have addressed the pros and cons of prophylactic mastectomy versus close follow-up, utilizing annual mammography, semiannual or even more frequent physical examinations of the breast, and proficient monthly breast self-examinations. Recent efforts to isolate a gene (BRCA1) on chromosome 17q12-21 raise additional concerns about the management of women testing positive for BRCA1 mutations. These women are estimated to have an 85% lifetime risk of developing breast cancer. Testing for BRCA1 mutation carriers may soon be available for population screening. This article describes preliminary studies investigating health care provider and patient perceptions of bilateral prophylactic mastectomy. In addition, a number of research questions remain regarding the efficacy and utilization of bilateral prophylactic mastectomy as a treatment option for women at increased risk of developing breast cancer. These women include those testing positive for BRCA1 mutations. In addition, women with a strong family history opting against testing for BRCA1 mutations may express interest in surgery.

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