Managing your Breast Cancer Risk

If you have inherited an alteration in BRCA1 or BRCA2, your risk of breast, ovarian and other cancers is greatly increased compared to the average woman.

In the video here below, Professor Aoife Lowery explains how you can manage your risk of breast cancer if you have inherited one of these alterations.

I am a BRCA alteration carrier and have developed breast cancer.

Should I have a double mastectomy?


The answer to this question is not straightforward.

The risk of breast cancer associated with a BRCA1/BRCA2 genetic alteration can depend on a number of factors; such as

  • Gene in which alteration has been identified (BRCA1 or BRCA2)

  • The specific genetic alteration in question

  • Personal and Family History of cancer

  • Other genetic factors

  • Environmental factors

  • Risk-reducing strategies, such as risk-reducing ovarian surgery.

  • Lifestyle factors, including family planning, alcohol use, and weight management.

The risk of developing a second breast cancer if you have already been affected once is also influenced by these factors, and may be greater if you are affected at a young age. 

Knowing you carry a BRCA alteration may influence your decision regarding surgery for your breast cancer. Some women choose to undergo a double mastectomy as part of their cancer treatment, to reduce the risk of developing a second breast cancer, and to avoid the need for more surgery at a later date.

However, other women prefer to deal with the breast cancer first, by lumpectomy (wide local excision) and radiotherapy, or mastectomy to remove the affected breast only. Some of these women go on to have surgery to remove any residual breast tissue at a later date, while other women choose not to have further surgery, and instead continue with breast surveillance. 

If you have had a breast cancer, the lifetime risk of developing a second breast cancer is as high as 50%. Undergoing a double mastectomy will reduce the risk of a second breast cancer by approximately 95%. However, this surgery will not address the risk that the first cancer might reoccur. There are a number of factors that impact the risk of recurrence; including specific features of your cancer, and whether or not you have chemotherapy or other systemic treatments.


Breast Reconstruction

For some more information reconstruction after mastectomy, please click here to view Mr Niall McInerney discuss the options. 

How do I manage my risk of Ovarian Cancer if I have inherited a BRCA alteration? 

Click the link below to find out how you can manage your risk of ovarian cancer.