Stephanie M. Wong, Carla Apostolova, Elisheva Eisenberg, William D. Foulkes

Counselling Framework for Germline BRCA1/2 and PALB2 Carriers Considering Risk-Reducing Mastectomy

Female BRCA1/2 and PALB2 germline pathogenic variant carriers have an increased lifetime risk of breast cancer and may wish to consider risk-reducing mastectomy (RRM) for surgical prevention. Quantifying the residual lifetime risk and absolute benefit from RRM requires careful consideration of a patient’s age, pathogenic variant, and their personal history of breast or ovarian cancer. Historically, patients have been counselled that RRM does not necessarily prolong survival relative to high-risk surveillance, although recent studies suggest a possible survival benefit of RRM in BRCA1 carriers. The uptake of RRM has increased dramatically over the last several decades yet varies according to sociodemographic factors and geographic region. The increased adoption of nipple-sparing mastectomy techniques, ability to avoid axillary staging, and availability of reconstructive options for most germline pathogenic variant carriers has helped to minimize the morbidity of RRM. Preoperative discussions should include evidence regarding postmastectomy sensation, the potential for supplemental surgery, pregnancy-related chest wall changes, and the need for continued clinical surveillance. Approaches that include sensation preservation and robotic nipple-sparing mastectomy are an area of evolving research that may be more widely adopted in the future.

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