The need for women to be vigilant in breast cancer prevention

Question

Hi doctor, I’ve been reading a lot in the news about Angelina Jolie having her ovaries removed because she carries a cancer gene. Please could you tell me more about this? How do you know if you have the gene, when should you consider removing them and does having a vaccination like Gardesil affect this in any way?

Submitted by Anien on 14 April 2015

Answer

Hi reader
Angelina Jolie’s case has highlighted the need for women to be vigilant in breast cancer prevention. She however had the rarer form of genetic breast cancer risk associated with the BRCA genes. Even men with these genetic mutations have a high risk of developing breast cancer. She decided to reduce her chances of contracting this high risk inherited form of breast cancer by removing the estrogen production by her ovaries. One can easily be tested for this genetic risk for developing breast cancer, however due to the serious nature of the consequences of carrying this gene, a woman who chooses to follow this step must undergo comprehensive counseling by a genetic counselor first. This will allow her to make the correct decision regarding testing and treatment and explain the consequences to her children, if has any, regarding their genetic risk profile. Unfortunately this form of cancer will not be lessened through HPV vaccinations such as Gardasil as this vaccination is primarily against cervical cancer caused by the human papilloma virus. The best course of action is to start by speaking to a physician who can guide you in the right direction regarding counseling and genetic testing. Fortunately there are many other natural ways that one can reduce the chances of developing other forms of breast cancer, and your functional medicine practitioner will advise you regarding these methods as well.

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