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Pregnancy & ChildbirthWellness & PreventionTreatment & Care

Options for Harmful BRAC1 or BRAC2 Genes

Several options are available for managing cancer risk in individuals who have a harmful BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation. However, high-quality data on the effectiveness of these options are limited.

Surveillance

Surveillance means cancer screening, or a way of detecting the disease early. Screening does not, however, change the risk of developing cancer. The goal is to find cancer early, when it may be most treatable.

Surveillance methods for breast cancer may include mammography and clinical breast exams. Studies are under way to test the effectiveness of other breast cancer screening methods, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), in women with BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations. With careful surveillance, many breast cancers will be diagnosed early enough to be successfully treated.

Prophylactic Surgery

This type of surgery involves removing as much of the “at-risk” tissue as possible in order to reduce the chance of developing cancer. Bilateral prophylactic mastectomy (removal of healthy breasts) does not, however, offer a guarantee against developing cancer. Because not all at-risk tissue can be removed by these procedures, some women have developed breast cancer even after prophylactic surgery.

Risk Avoidance

Certain behaviors have been associated with breast and ovarian cancer risk in the general population, such as weight, physical activity and diet.

Women can decrease their risk of developing breast cancer through changes in lifestyles, such as:

  • Increasing physical activity
  • Losing weight
  • Quitting smoking
  • Reducing alcoholic drinks to a maximum of two per day

Woman’s encourages women to consult with their doctor and genetic counselor before undergoing any surgical or behavioral change.