For some women diagnosed with breast cancer, removing the ovaries could decrease their chances of dying from the disease, a recent study in JAMA Oncology found. The study, published April 23, showed that women who have breast cancer and carry a BRCA1 gene mutation reduce their risk of death by 62% following oophorectomies. Women with a germline mutation in either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene have a 70% risk of developing breast cancer in their lifetimes, the study stated. They also are at significant risk for secondary and primary breast and ovarian cancers, according to the study.
Researchers focused on 676 women who underwent oophorectomies following their breast cancer diagnoses and 331 who kept both ovaries. The entire patient cohort had a 20-year survival rate of 77.4%, with a 56% reduction in breast cancer death. The protective benefit of an oophorectomy procedure continues for women with breast cancer and a BRCA1 mutation beyond age 50, the study stated.
Upon receiving a new breast cancer diagnosis, women with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation should be offered oophorectomy as part of their treatment plan, the study said. Previous studies have shown oophorectomy to reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancers, researchers noted.
Because women with BRCA gene mutations have such a high risk of ovarian cancer, oophorectomies usually are recommended for all carriers who are older than 35, the study said. The majority of oophorectomies examined for the data were done to prevent ovarian cancer rather than treat breast cancer.
To confirm the benefits of the procedure, follow-up studies are recommended on women who received oophorectomies as part of their initial treatment, the study stated. Further research also is recommended on BRCA2 gene carriers to confirm the benefit for that population of women in particular.
“The data presented here suggest that oophorectomy should be discussed with the patient shortly after diagnosis,” the researchers concluded. “We recommend that the operation be performed in the first year of treatment to maximize the benefit. These data, coupled with emerging data on the unique sensitivities of BRCA-related breast cancers to certain classes of chemotherapy, and the mortality benefit derived from chemotherapy and from contralateral mastectomy, suggest that women with newly diagnosed breast cancer and a BRCA mutation might benefit from treatments that are tailored to the hereditary subgroup.”