Removing risk of cancer comes with consequences for women

HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – A simple solution to preventing breast and ovarian cancer comes with drastic consequences for young women. A new study found women with a BRCA-1 gene mutation can reduce their risk of those cancers by 80 percent if they get their ovaries removed by 35-years-old. Many women said they’d sacrifice not having children by that age if it meant preventing cancer.

“Definitely on an individual basis, but if you have that risk, sometimes it’s just better to get rid of it…where there’s a will there’s a way,” said Keelee Schacht of South Hadley.

That way would be to store their eggs. After surgery, women instantly undergo menopause.

Holyoke Medical Oncology Director Doctor Zubeena Mateen told 22News this is a rare genetic mutation but she has treated women with it here in Western Massachusetts.

She said it is most prevalent among Ashkenazi Jewish women.

“Women about 35 years of age, their risk would be about 1.4 percent average but by the age of 40, the risk goes up to 4 percent and if they’re 50, the risk goes up to 14 percent,” said Dr. Mateen.

Some women said that’s a percentage small enough to take the risk of cancer in order to have children in their 30s.

“If it’s literally just the gene and it’s not determined that you actually have ovarian cancer or not, I would not do that. Absolutely not,” Therese Burdick of Middlefield told 22News.

It’s a tough decision many women hope they never have to make.

22News asked viewers if you would have this drastic surgery to prevent cancer.

83 percent said yes while 17 percent said no.

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