Bilateral risk reducing mastectomy (or previously called prophylactic mastectomy) refers to mastectomy before a cancer has been found. It is a risk reducing surgery rather than a prophylactic procedure as even after the mastectomy a small percentage of breast tissue is left, which still bears the risk of developing cancer. The reason for that is that the breast tissue does not sit in a well defined shell like the kidney or the liver.

Who is offered a risk reducing mastectomy?

Every woman carries the risk of developing breast cancer, particularly with ageing. Certain factors can increase the risk and therefore risk reducing mastectomy is offered:

  • Cancer in one breast: If there is a family history of breast cancer and and one breast is already affected, then bilateral mastectomy can be considered.
  • Family history of breast cancer: If two or more members of a family have developed breast cancer at a relatively young age, then this is considered a significant family history with an elevated risk of breast cancer.
  • Tested positive for hereditary gene: the carriers of the faulty gene BRCA1 and BRCA2 have up to 90% risk of developing breast cancer by the age of 70.