Who should a woman talk to when considering surgery to reduce her risk of breast cancer?

The decision to have any surgery to reduce the risk of breast cancer is a major one. A woman who is at high risk of breast cancer may wish to get a second opinion on risk-reducing surgery as well as on alternatives to surgery. For more information on getting a second opinion, see the section “How can I get another doctor’s opinion about the diagnosis and treatment plan” in the NCI fact sheet How to Find a Doctor or Treatment Facility if You Have Cancer.

A woman who is considering prophylactic mastectomy may also want to talk with a surgeon who specializes in breast reconstruction. Other health care professionals, including a breast health specialist, medical social worker, or cancer clinical psychologist or psychiatrist, can also help a woman consider her options for reducing her risk of breast cancer.

Many factors beyond the risk of disease itself may influence a woman’s decision about whether to undergo risk-reducing surgery. For example, for women who have been diagnosed with cancer in one breast, these factors can include distress about the possibility of having to go through cancer treatment a second time and the worry and inconvenience associated with long-term breast surveillance (29). For this reason, women who are considering risk-reducing surgery may want to talk with other women who have considered or had the procedure. Support groups can help connect women with others who have had similar cancer experiences. The searchable NCI database National Organizations That Offer Cancer-Related Services has listings for many support groups.

Finally, if a woman has a strong family history of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, or both, she and other members of her family may want to obtain genetic counseling services. A genetic counselor or other healthcare provider trained in genetics can review the family’s risks of disease and help family members obtain genetic testing for mutations in cancer-predisposing genes, if appropriate.

Selected References

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Source: National Cancer Institute