Prophylactic Bilateral Mastectomy? Essay Examples

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Cancer, Risk, Genetics, Breast Cancer, Women, Medicine, Extreme, Development

Pages: 2

Words: 550

Published: 2020/09/27

The Preventative or Excessive

Cancer is one the most feared medical diagnoses that any patient can receive. Granted we know a great deal more about cancer than in the past and many can be treated to a positive end, however, others are more risky. Breast cancer is a serious consideration for women. Today there are tests and measures that can be taken to identify, treat, and address the needs of breast cancer patients. Unfortunately, survival is still very much a matter of case by case basis. However, recent research has shown that there may be certain genes and hereditary markers that can help doctors determine the cancer risk of these patients. There are a number of women who faced with the a verification of these negative genes and high risk percentiles have optioned for prophylactic mastectomies, which is the removal of one (unilateral) or both breasts (bilateral) before a cancer has been developed (Silberman, 2014). This measure is somewhat controversial. The removal of an entire breast is a huge decision when there is only a risk of cancer not a certainty. The relevant question then becomes, does such an extreme preventative measure have a practical impact on the cancer risk of the patients with a genetic predisposition for developing breast cancer?


Generally speaking, any human being possesses the possibility of developing cancer, and those chances increase when unhealthy lifestyle choice are made, like smoking. However, when cancer appears to run in families, in those families there is a possibility that risk is being severely increased by a mutation in certain genes. These two genes are BRCA1 and BRCA2. They both suppress the development of tumors in human tissues, however, when mutated they no longer function as they should and leave the body with a greater predisposition of developing cancer tumors (Salhab & et. al, 2010). In both men and women ,these mutations can raise the likelihood of all cancers, and exceptionally greater chances of breast cancer and ovarian cancer specifically. Tests can identify these genes and whether a dangerous mutation is present. By optioning to remove the breast or breasts in order to lower that risk factor they take a proactive stand (National Cancer Institute, 2014).
People were shocked when Angelina Jolie, world renowned actress and director, made this difficult decision and had both of her breasts removed. Her mother had died of breast cancer and she does carry the mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes (Gorski, 2013). The reality is that by taking these prophylactic measures it does show a high likelihood of lowering the risk of developing the cancer in the breast tissues. That said, the answer to the big question is, yes, prophylactic bilateral mastectomy is a valid means to lower the risk and does satisfy the need for effective preventative options (Salhab & et. al, 2010). In fairness, however, it is not 100% guaranteed. Women who have had bilateral mastectomy will likely not develop breast cancer, but the risk for other forms of cancer can still occur.
For many people, the idea of such an extreme measure seems like cutting of an arm because the finger is diseased. It is perceived as excessive. However, when one is informed that the likelihood of a cancer diagnosis has increased into the 80 percentile, it seems like a calculated and logical option. As in many cases, until there is a definitive and universal cure for cancer, there is never going to be a one-size-fits-all solution. Every case should be reviewed on a case by case basis so that the best preventative measures are considered and, when a negative diagnosis is received, how they will treat and address the condition (Croshaw & et. al, 2011). For some an extreme measure, like the bilateral mastectomy is ideal, for others it is not.


Again the diagnosis of cancer is a serious fear for many people in the world today. Now that there are tests to gauge your likelihood of developing the disease many are extremely quick to take the measures necessary to diminish those statistics even if it extreme. The reality is that nothing can guarantee, 100%, without fail, can free anyone from the risk of cancer. The reality is that as extreme as it is, this procedure is an effective and statistically beneficial alternative to gambling on the risks of cancer. It can lower the risk in patients who carry the mutation in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. That said, in the end, it is an individual choice that only an indivdual can make.


Croshaw, R. L., & et. al., (2011). Prophylactic and therapeutic breast conservation in brca1/2 mutation carriers. International Journal of Breast Cancer, 2011, 1-9.
Gorski, D. (2013, May 20). Angelina jolie, radical strategies for cancer prevention, and genetics denialism. Science-Based Medicine, 1. Retrieved from
Salhab, M., & et. al., M. (2010). Risk-reducing strategies for women carrying brca1/2 mutations with a focus on prophylactic surgery. BMC Women's Health, 10(28), 1.
Silberman, A. (2014, October 7). Breast cancer: Answers on prophylactic mastectomy. Healthline, 1. Retrieved from
National Cancer Institute. (2014, January 22). Brca1 and brca2: Cancer risk and genetic testing. National Cancer Institute, 1. Retrieved from

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