- Question from Dee: Having had two separate and different breast cancers, I fear yet another cancer. How much does a history of breast cancer increase the risks of additional cancers, especially ovarian? When is a hysterectomy a good idea?
Marisa Weiss, M.D.
After a diagnosis of breast cancer, you feel very vulnerable. If you have been 'hit by lightening' twice, you can even feel very paranoid about it. There are several risks that you mentioned. One is the risk of the original cancer becoming a problem again. The second is the risk of a new breast cancer forming that is unrelated to the first breast cancer, either in the same breast or on the other side. That risk in general is about 1 percent per year, so at 10 years, that risk is approximately 10 percent. If you are someone who has an inherited breast cancer gene abnormality and you have had breast cancer once, your risk of developing a new breast cancer independent of the first one is approximately 3 to 5 percent per year. Of course, these are numbers in general and they can vary greatly from one person in one family to another.
A woman's risk of ovarian cancer after having had a breast cancer does depend a lot upon family history, and whether there is a breast cancer gene abnormality in the family. For these women, the risk is significant and can vary from 20 percent up to 60 percent over a lifetime, depending on your circumstances. Choosing to have prophylactic surgeries—removal of the breast, or removal of the ovaries—before cancer has a chance to occur is a complex decision that you have to make with a set of doctors and nurses who know a lot about inherited breast cancer gene abnormalities, and the role and type of these surgeries.
The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Tackling Fear featured Lillie Shockney, R.N., B.S., M.A.S., Marisa Weiss, M.D. and moderator Gwen Darien, Editor-in-Chief, MAMM Magazine, answering your questions about how to manage breast cancer fears.
Editor's Note: This conference took place in June 2001.
The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.
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