Why you may be offered risk-reducing surgery
If you're at high risk of developing breast cancer your genetic counsellor will discuss the possibility of surgery to remove both breasts (bilateral mastectomy) to reduce your breast cancer risk.
Reconstruction of both breasts is usually offered at the same time, using an implant and/or tissue from another part of the body, and it is usually possible to preserve the nipples. For more information, download our Breast reconstruction booklet.
There is evidence to show that having a bilateral mastectomy can significantly reduce the risk of developing breast cancer by 90–95%, but it cannot completely eliminate the risk.
Women who carry a faulty gene are also at higher risk of developing ovarian cancer. Having the ovaries and fallopian tubes removed by surgery before the natural menopause can reduce the risk of developing ovarian cancer. It can also reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.
If you’re considering risk-reducing surgery you may find it helpful to read Macmillan Cancer Support's Understanding risk-reducing breast surgery booklet.
Preventive drugs for women at high risk of breast cancer
In June 2013, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published guidance recommending the use of the drugs tamoxifen or raloxifene to help prevent breast cancer in women at high risk.
Read more about NICE’s recommendations for the testing, prevention and monitoring of familial breast cancer.
Content last reviewed December 2012; next planned review 2013