When it comes to the presence of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations, which are often called the “breast cancer genes,” preventive surgery has been a recommended course of action. According to Breastcancer.org, mutations in these two genes account for about 10 percent of all breast cancers.
Women with abnormal BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes are sometimes advised to undergo prophylactic (protective) surgery to remove their ovaries and breasts, in order to reduce their cancer risks for those organs. Past research has indicated that removing the ovaries prevents ovarian cancer, and the surgery has even been purported as a method for reducing breast cancer risks. However, new research has revealed that going under the knife may not be so beneficial after all.
Research shows ovarian surgery doesn’t stop breast cancer
While Breastcancer.org says past research “strongly suggests” that removing ovaries in women with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations is a good way to prevent or reduce breast cancer risks, recent findings published by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute suggest otherwise.
The study found that ovary removal surgery or “oophorectomy” does not actually reduce the risk of breast cancer for most women. However, the study, led by scientists from Women’s College Hospital, did support previous research that indicated women with these genetic mutations should consider mastectomy (removal of their breast tissue) in order to reduce their risk of breast cancer.
Scientist Joanne Kotsopoulos, Ph.D., and senior study author Dr. Steven Narod, the director of the familial cancer research group at WCH and a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Breast Cancer, piloted the research.
Kotsopolous stated, “Our findings show that oophorectomy does not protect against breast cancer for BRCA1 mutation carriers.” She did note that some benefit was observed in surgery recipients under the age of 50 with BRCA2 mutations, but notes that further research is required to confirm that finding.
Previous research indicated that removing the ovaries and Fallopian tubes in women with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations prevented breast cancer in 50 percent of cases. However, the more recent data from Kotsopolous and Narod did not support the previous findings.
“This reminds us that it is important to re-evaluate the role of known risk factors for hereditary cancer through large, long-term studies of many women,” Kotsopolous commented.
To conduct their research, the team recruited 3,722 women from around world with mutations of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes that had no history of cancer. For several years, they used follow-up surveys to track ovary removal surgeries and breast cancer diagnoses. The researchers found that oophorectomy was not associated with breast cancer risk when compared to women who did not undergo the surgery.
In spite of the shocking findings, the study authors maintain that they recommend surgery for at-risk women at age 35 for BRCA1 mutation carriers, and age 40 for those who carry the BRCA2 mutation. It’s not surprising: mainstream medicine is notoriously slow to change its opinion on things (look at all the controversy surrounding medical cannabis).
But, their findings will hopefully inspire further research, and perhaps prompt more patients to ask their doctors, “Is this treatment really necessary?”
Unneeded treatments are a tremendous problem
More people should be questioning convention when it comes to mainstream, modern medicine. Many times, the surgeries and medications people are prescribed are totally unnecessary.
In 2013, USA Today conducted a study that revealed tens of thousands of unnecessary surgeries were performed in the United States every year. In fact, in some specialties, the amount of unwarranted surgery can reach as high as 10 or 20 percent.
When it comes to medications, the outlook isn’t any better. The CDC reports that about 1 in 3 antibiotic prescriptions are totally unnecessary — and that’s just a single class of prescription medication. Last year, a survey revealed that about 27 percent of antibiotic prescriptions were doled out even when doctors knew the medication wouldn’t help. (RELATED: Read more news about modern medicine at Medicine.news.)
Other studies have suggested that about half of all opioids prescribed after surgery are unnecessary, as well. There are many other drug treatments that doctors often push on their patients, even when they know it is questionable — such as the antipsychotic drugs that are often given to dementia patients, in spite of the clear risks they pose.
Unneeded medical treatment is a growing problem in the for-profit medical industry, and time to stop sweeping it under the rug, under the guise of “needing more research.”