Preventative Measures Can Minimize Cancer Risk
- An OBGYN doctor known for helping celebrities like Rihanna and Khloe Kardashian give birth shocked doctors when she chose to undergo a prophylactic (preventative) double mastectomy to stave off her breast cancer risk.
- A double mastectomy is a procedure that removes both breasts. Some women choose this procedure to reduce their risk of cancer especially if they have a family history of cancer or possess the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutation which also increases your risk.
- Against her doctor’s advice, Dr. Thais Aliabadi chose to undergo the preventative procedure even though she had no gene mutation or family history of the disease. After the procedure, she stunningly discovered she had stage 1 breast cancer in one of her breasts.
- The decision to undergo a mastectomy is very personal and risks vs. benefits should be discussed openly with a doctor.
The OBGYN doctor who helped singer Rihanna and reality TV star Khloe Kardashian give birth made a bold decision regarding her own health. She made the emotional decision to undergo a prophylactic double mastectomy after calculating her own breast cancer risk. Little did she know at the time, her aggressive approach to stave off the onset of cancer proved to be crucial.
View this post on InstagramRead MoreDr. Thais Aliabadi detailed her journey in a blog that lays out her decision to schedule herself for an elective double mastectomy against her doctor’s opinion. A double mastectomy is a procedure that removes both breasts. Sometimes, women choose to undergo this procedure to reduce their breast cancer risk especially if they have a family history of the disease.
“I had no family history of breast cancer, no genetic mutations, no cancerous biopsies, and normal mammograms, ultrasounds, and MRIs before surgery. But I scheduled my own prophylactic (preventative) bilateral mastectomy anyway,” Dr. Aliabadi wrote.
Dr. Aliabadi calculated her own cancer risk by assessing a few things.
She said she previously had two pre-cancerous biopsies, she had dense breast tissue which means the breasts contain more glandular and fibrous tissue than fatty breast tissue. Taking these potential risk factors into account, Dr. Aliabadi calculated her breast cancer risk.
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“I used a formula to calculate my lifetime risk of breast cancer. Surprisingly my risk came back very high (37-50%),” she said.
It should be noted, that we do not know the formula she used to determine her own cancer risk.
“I decided not to wait for cancer and made the decision to have my breasts removed,” she continued.
To her surprise, after undergoing the mastectomy, Dr. Aliabadi discovered she already had stage 1 breast cancer.
“To everyone’s surprise, my pathology report came back positive for stage 1 breast cancer. Wait!!! What??? Me??? I was shocked,” she wrote with astonishment.
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Stage 1 breast cancers are relatively small; they either have not spread to the lymph nodes or only a small area of cancer has spread to the sentinel lymph node. Treatment will likely be surgery and radiation following surgery, along with chemotherapy or some other therapy. For women whose breast cancer is hormone receptor-positive doctors will also recommend hormone therapy. For HER2-positive cancers, the drug Herceptin will be recommended.
Dr. Aliabadi says she chose to share her story to educate women on the importance of staying current with their breast cancer screenings.
“I went forward with a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy to avoid cancer, not knowing that I already had stage 1 breast cancer in my right breast. Scary, isn’t it,” she added.
More on Breast Cancer Treatment
- HER2-Positive Metastatic Breast Cancer Treatment Options Explained
- Metastatic Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Treatments To Consider
- Have You Been Diagnosed With Late-Stage Breast Cancer? Know That You Have Treatment Options.
- The Unique Features of Breast Cancer: Deciding the Right Course of Treatment
- Will I Look Older After Breast Cancer Treatment?
What Goes into Deciding to Get a Mastectomy?
When a woman decides to have a mastectomy, several factors go into that decision. Among things to consider is whether to have breast-conserving surgery such as a lumpectomy. These decisions should be made alongside your doctor by having an open and candid discussion about risks vs. benefits.
“A double mastectomy typically takes about two hours for the cancer part of the operation, the removing of the tissue,” Dr. Elisa Port, Chief of Breast Surgery at Mount Sinai Health System, tells SurvivorNet. “The real length, the total length of the surgery, can often depend on what type of reconstruction [a patient] has.”
Other factors that weigh into the decision to get a mastectomy are the size and features of the tumor and your family history. However, the gravity of your decision comes into full view especially if you choose to get a mastectomy and remove both of your breasts.
WATCH: Regaining your sense of self after reconstruction.
Some women decide to have their breasts reconstructed and have implants put in right after the mastectomy, while others don’t have reconstruction at all.
Dr. Port added that most women do opt to have some sort of reconstruction. The length of these surgeries can vary a great deal. When implants are used, the procedure can take two to three hours (so the total surgery time would be around five hours). There is also the option to take one’s own tissue (usually from the belly area) and transfer it into the breast area during reconstruction.
How to Choose the Right Surgeon?
Surgical procedures such as a double mastectomy can be an emotional part of a woman’s breast cancer journey. For such a heavy part of the process, choosing the right surgeon is extremely important.
SurvivorNet doctors say women should trust their gut when choosing a surgeon.
“You shouldn’t just ask surgeons how many operations they’ve performed because volume is not necessarily the best indicator of the right surgeon for you. On the other hand, you don’t want a surgeon who is inexperienced,” urologic oncologist Dr. Jay Shah said.
Above all, Dr. Shah says people faced with a choice of surgeons should go with someone they feel they can trust.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
If you’re facing the option of having a mastectomy, here are some questions to consider asking your doctor:
- What can I do to prepare for a double mastectomy?
- What happens before and after the procedure?
- For reconstruction, what are the benefits of using implants over my own tissue and vice versa?
- What should I know about implants should I opt for preventative surgery?
- What will recovery look like after the procedure?
- What are the benefits of a watch & wait approach vs. preventative surgery?
- What kind of surveillance is required after the surgery?