Women with Breast Cancer BRCA Mutations Can Take Hormone-Replacement Therapy Safely After Ovary Removal

Some women carry gene mutations, called BRCA1 or BRCA2. These are linked to a very high risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

In women who carry these BRCA mutations, the most powerful risk-reduction strategy is to have their ovaries and fallopian tubes surgically removed (salpingo-oophorectomy) before middle age. This brings on a rapid early menopause together with symptoms including hot flushes, mood swings and sleep disturbances, together with the obvious permanent infertility at a time when many women wish to have a family.

These problems cause some women to delay or avoid the procedure. The research undertaken by the University of Pennsylvania now shows that these women can safely take hormone-replacement therapy (HRT) to reduce menopausal symptoms caused by surgical removal of their ovaries. Results of the prospective study indicated that women with BRCA mutations who had their ovaries removed and took short-term HRT had a decrease in the risk of developing breast cancer.

If women go into an early menopause, it will increase their risk of cardiovascular problems, similar to that of men, and bone problems like osteoporosis as seen in much older women. All women need to be aware of these potential problems. Ladies with the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations who have undertaken oophorectomy can now discuss short-term HRT with their doctors.

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