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New research shows: Having an oophorectomy significantly reduces your chances of dying from breast cancer

by , 01 May 2015

Last month, actress Angelina Jolie made news when she announced that she had an oophorectomy. (This is the name of the surgery where your ovaries removed.).

Now Jolie didn't have cancer. She underwent surgery to reduce her cancer risk.

And a new study is supporting her. It says preventative ovary removal in women with breast cancer who also carry the BRCA1 mutation is highly effective.

If you're a woman with a BRCA mutation and want to reduce your risk of dying from breast cancer, researchers say that ovary removal (“oophorectomy”) can help. The sooner, the better, they stress. Read on for more information.

Increase your chance of surviving breast cancer with an oophorectomy

Kelly Metcalfe, a professor of medicine and nursing at the Women’s College Research Institute of the University of Toronto, led the study. 
Researchers reported that if you’re a woman with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, you can increase your chance of surviving breast cancer by having an oophorectomy
If you’re a BRCA carrier, your risk of breast and ovarian cancer sharply increases. Your doctor then usually suggests preventative mastectomy or oophorectomy. 
Metcalfe says that her new study points out that having these surgeries as soon as possible is vital.

What does ovary removal have to do with a lower breast cancer death rate?

JAMA Oncology published the study online earlier this month. While researchers found a link between ovary removal in women with BRCA and lower risk of breast cancer death, they weren’t able to prove cause and effect.
The study entailed following 676 women who had early stage breast cancers and were carriers of BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations. The report stated that all women had undergone some sort of breast cancer treatment, such as mastectomy or lumpectomy (breast tumour removal). Roughly half had their ovaries removed.
Overall, 77% of women survived over the 20-year follow-up from time of diagnosis, the findings showed.
Women who had their ovaries removed had a 56% reduction in breast cancer death compared to those who kept them. When researchers looked at only those with BRCA1 mutations, those who had their ovaries removed had a 62% lower risk of breast cancer death than BRCA1 who didn’t.
The women with BRCA2 who had their ovaries removed had a lower risk of breast cancer death than carriers who kept them. However, the lowered risk wasn’t great enough for Metcalfe to consider it statistically significant. 
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How early you should remove your ovaries

On average, women in the study who had their ovaries removed had it done six years after being diagnosed with breast cancer. 
Despite this,  earlier oophorectomy conferred a greater reduction in breast cancer death risk, the study found.
Metcalfe says that having your ovaries removed within one year from diagnosis will be most effective.

There are, however, complications involved in having your ovaries removed

Having an oophorectomy is no easy decision, Metcalfe points out. 
Like any surgery, it carries risk. Having your ovaries removed before menopause also causes early menopause.
Some women may also choose to keep their ovaries until they finish childbearing.
And there you have it. So, if you’re a carrier of a BRCA gene, you might want to strongly consider having your ovaries removed. For professional advice, chat to your doctor. The sooner you do so, the more significantly you’ll lower your risk of dying from breast cancer.

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