- Question from Bio Pat: Do you think it is helpful at all to consider hysterectomy/ovary removal for someone with breast cancer that was premenopausal at diagnosis? Would it help chances of not having recurrence?
Patricia A. Ganz, M.D.
That's a very good question. Women who have had breast cancer at an early age still have their ovaries functioning, and, if that is the case, ovarian hormones may still continue to stimulate the breast tissue. This could lead to a continued risk to a new breast cancer in the unaffected breast, and potentially relate to a risk of the recurrence of the original cancer. There are some research studies in younger women with breast cancer using a medication that suppresses the ovarian hormones. When used in combination with tamoxifen, the studies find it is superior to tamoxifen alone. However, this is an extreme procedure, and should not be proceeded to lightly. Women with breast cancer are also at a slightly increased risk of getting ovarian cancer. The general population has a 1 percent lifetime risk, and with women with a history of breast cancer, the risk is 2 percent. While that number is not very large, it is more difficult to detect ovarian cancer early, and some women may choose to have surgery to remove the ovaries to reduce their potential risk of getting ovarian cancer in the future.
This is particularly an issue for women who may be carriers of the breast cancer heredity susceptibility genes—BRCA1 or BRCA2. Women who carry one of the breast cancer susceptibility genes may have an increased risk of ovarian cancer ranging from 10 to 35 percent.
On Wednesday, October 17, 2001, our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called Quality of Life. Patricia A. Ganz, M.D.,Marisa Weiss, M.D., answered your questions about how breast cancer can affect physical, emotional, social, and sexual aspects of your life.
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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