3 Women at High Risk for Breast Cancer Share Why They Had Preventive Mastectomies

Preventative mastectomy to reduce risk of breast cancer has been a hot button issue ever since celebs like Angelina Jolie underwent surgery.

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Preventive mastectomies for women at high risk of breast cancer, but who haven’t yet been diagnosed, are a hot topic in the breast cancer community these days, as genetic testing for the disease becomes more widely available. Preventive mastectomy is also becoming more common among breast cancer patients, with some choosing the prophylactic removal of a breast that doesn’t have cancer, often due to fears over recurrence.

Some experts question whether these surgeries save lives, and some think that women may overestimate their health benefits, according to this USA Today article.

But after reading the powerful stories of these three women who chose the procedure, it’s hard to know what I’d do if I was in the same situation. What about you?

• Allison Gilbert’s mother, aunt, and grandmother all died from breast or ovarian cancer and she tested positive for the BRCA1 gene.

“The worst moment came one night when my husband and I were in bed. I began to cry uncontrollably and wished I could talk with my mother and aunt about which procedure to have, which doctor I should choose, and whether I should even have the surgery. Then a moment of bittersweet grace clarified what I needed to do. It struck me that the reason I couldn’t speak to my mother and aunt is exactly the reason I had to have the surgery.” Read more at CNN.com »

• Rene Syler, the daughter of two breast cancer survivors, made the decision after she started having abnormal mammograms, which would require annual breast biopsies.

“I wish I could explain to you the level of despair I was experiencing during that time. I felt like I was going round and round on a terrifying carnival ride that would stop in a place I didn’t want. I began to think it was not a matter of if, but when I would get breast cancer.” Read more at EverydayHealth.com »

• Margaret W. Smith, mother, wife, soldier, and marathoner, chose a double mastectomy at age 29 and opted out of reconstruction.

“When I finally got tested and learned that I did have the same gene mutation [as my mother, BRCA2], something in me just clicked. I knew I needed to take control of my health and my life; I had to be there for my daughter, and living with the threat of cancer was no longer an option. A month later I had the double mastectomy. It was a very difficult decision but one that I had already been grappling with for years.” Read more at FitnessMagazine.com »

Photo Credit: © iStockphoto/Thinkstock

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