Removing body parts to avoid cancer

The women in the photo below are obviously related--just look at their faces!

Many other women who are related are learning, thanks to genetic testing, that they share a strong potential for being hit with breast or ovarian cancer in their future. Some of these women are choosing mastectomies, ovarectomies, and hysterectomies to remove the potentially susceptible tissue and dramatically reduce their chances of having cancer of the breast, ovary, or uterus.

One recent story from the Associated Press, published at, described Mindy Diamond-Rivera, a 47-year -old woman in Arizona who had her breasts removed and "is ready to get rid of her ovaries and uterus."

Last September, she learned that her chances of breast cancer were 87%--a striking confirmation of the family history she's been afraid of since her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother all died of breast cancer before 43. Taking no further chances, she had her breasts removed last November.

Because having the BRCA-1 gene also predicts that her chances of having ovarian cancer are 60%, she intends to have her ovaries removed--and her uterus. "Everything's coming out", she says.

According to the article, "Her insurance has covered almost everything so far. Most insurance companies cover about 80 percent of the genetic testing, said genetic counselor Jessica Ray [of the High-Risk Breast and Ovarian Cancer Clinic at the Arizona Cancer Center]. The cost of the test without insurance is $2,975."

What would you or your loved one do?

Marie Godfrey, PhD

Photo source: flickrs April 3, 2006 photo from twid

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