Getting a double mastectomy to prevent breast cancer

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-16-2010
Getting a double mastectomy to prevent breast cancer
3
Wed, 05-15-2013 - 12:38pm

Angelina Jolie recently decided to have a double mastectomy after discovering that she carries a mutation in the BRCA1 gene that her doctors told her gave her an 87% chance of developing breast cancer.  After the surgery, her risk will be less than 5%.

If you had not yet finished (or started) breastfeeding, would breastfeeding affect your decision about whether, or when, to have a preventative mastectomy in that situation?

Community Leader
Registered: 07-26-1999

I think that's a really hard thing to decide if you are not in the situation IMO.  Jolie already had natural kids.  My DD has a best friend who just lost her mother to breast cancer in November, K had just turned 18 and her mom had spent 2 years fighting it and doing chemotherapy.  She made the decision to get tested when she turned 18 and if she had the gene, she would have the preventative double mastectomy.  I don't know if she has gotten tested or not yet.  I think you'd have to weigh things, if are you in a committed relationship or marriage and getting ready to have kids, where a few years to wait may not make a huge difference, or if you are not even close to it or thinking about it, etc. would the worry and stress over it be worse on you then just having it done, and whether you felt the importance of someday breastfeeding was more important than the possibility of getting the cancer and fighting it.  I think your values/opinions and look on life may change over your life also.  If you had asked me at 18 when I had my first child, I would have very well told you I'd go the preventative route.  Now at 36, having had 2 more, my opinions and world views are much different and I would not go the preventative route.   In general, if I were already breastfeeding and it was strictly preventative, then I would definitely finish out the breastfeeding relationship.

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Community Leader
Registered: 10-01-2010

My mother died of breast cancer in March of this year. My aunt (her sister) died of breast cancer two years ago. My other aunt (her sister) is currently dying of breast cancer, not sure how much longer she has.

Several of my cousins have found lumps in their breasts, including a male cousin who died of breast cancer at 21 years old. So I have the gene? Probably...

But no, I would not get a preventive mastectomy, even though my children are all grown up and I will never be breastfeeding again.

Cancer is not a disease you just "get" like being randomly struck by lightning. It's something you must manage or prevent day by day, meal by meal, through lifestyle choices...

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-16-2010

Tracy, I agree it's hard to say unless you're in that situation. Catherine, so sorry about all of your affected family members.

If I had a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, ability to breastfeed would not be a factor in whether or when I decided to get the double mastectomy--with the exception that if I were currently breastfeeding a child and waiting a few more months were unlikely to make any difference, I'd wait until I was done breastfeeding that child.  Based on my current understanding, I think I'd get the double mastectomy, though there may be things I don't know.

Since the same mutations vastly increase the risk of ovarian cancer, I'd also consider having my ovaries removed--but that I would consider only after I had had all the children I wanted to have.