Taking Charge: If You Are at High Risk for Breast Cancer
Preventive Treatment Options for High Risk Women
This anti-estrogen drug has been used for many years to treat breast cancer. A recent study — the Breast Cancer Prevention Trial — found that women at high risk for breast cancer who took the drug were less likely to develop tumors. After an average of four years of taking tamoxifen, these women had 45 percent fewer breast cancers than women with the same risk factors who did not take the drug.
A woman's decision about whether to take tamoxifen should consider both these benefits and the risks associated with the drug, which include an increased chance of developing uterine cancer.
Prophylactic (Preventive) Mastectomy
Some women with a very high risk of developing breast cancer may choose to have one or both breasts surgically removed. These include women with mutations of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, a previous history of breast cancer, breast cancer in several close relatives, or a biopsy showing Lobular Carcinoma In Situ (a condition that is a marker for the potential development of invasive cancer).
Even a highly skilled breast surgeon cannot remove all the breast tissue from the chest, however, so a few women who have a preventive mastectomy still do get breast cancer. The decision to have this type of surgery must be made with a great deal of thought to the individual woman's situation. Women who consider this prevention strategy should be sure to talk to several doctors before proceeding, and evaluate the medical and emotional consequences of the surgery.
- Next section of Taking Charge: Screening for Breast Cancer
Return to the Taking Charge Index
- What Is Breast Cancer?
- Who Gets Breast Cancer?
- If You Are at High Risk for Breast Cancer
- Screening for Breast Cancer
- How Is Breast Cancer Diagnosed?
- How Is Breast Cancer Treated?
- What Is Ovarian Cancer?
- Who Gets Ovarian Cancer?
- If You Are at High Risk for Ovarian Cancer
- Screening for Ovarian Cancer
- How Is Ovarian Cancer Diagnosed?
- How is Ovarian Cancer Treated?
- Living With Cancer
- Diet, Lifestyle and Cancer
- Glossary of Terms
UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.
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