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Risk of Second Breast Cancer May Be Greater Than Thought for High-Risk Women Without BRCA Mutations

A preliminary analysis of ongoing research suggests that high-risk women with breast cancer who do not have a BRCA1/2 mutation may face a greater chance for developing a second breast cancer than previously thought. With the increased risk of cancer in these women, should sentinel node biopsy be considered at the time of prophylactic mastectomy, and how can women best be counseled after these findings?

The increased risk of developing breast cancer is already understood for women with the disease who test positive for a BRCA1 or 2 mutation. Many of these women choose to have their breast(s) surgically removed (prophylactic mastectomy) to reduce their risk of developing breast cancer or developing a second breast cancer The role of sentinel node biopsy remains controversial in this group.

"We know more about counseling women regarding prophylactic mastectomy if they have a BRCA mutation," says Shawna C. Willey, MD, FACS, a member of the Breast Cancer Program at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center and director of the Betty Lou Ourisman Breast Health Center at Georgetown University Hospital. "In high-risk women who have cancer but don't have a known mutation, we generally advise that the risk of developing a second cancer in the same or opposite breast is lower than it is for women who test positive for a mutation. This latest analysis has us re-thinking our approach."

Willey, the incoming president of the American Society of Breast Surgeons, is the lead author of the study which was presented at the society's annual meeting in New York City.

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