The psychological benefits from risk-reducing surgery for women with a strong familial risk of breast and/or ovarian cancer outweigh the cost of possible long-term side-effects, according to research being presented today at the COSA Annual Scientific Meeting.
The findings show that women who underwent risk-reducing mastectomies (RRM) and/or risk-reducing removal of the fallopian tube and ovaries, reported greater reductions in cancer-related anxiety and perceived cancer risk than women who did not have surgery.
While no differences were observed in depression or body image, some women who underwent fallopian tube and ovary removal surgery reported persistent menopausal symptoms and discomfort during sexual activity three years after surgery. Despite this, most women did not regret their decision.
Co-investigator Melanie Price, Senior Research Fellow at the School of Psychology, University of Sydney, said the findings were reassuring but did highlight the need for women who were considering the procedures to receive detailed information about the potential for some symptoms to be ongoing.
“Going ahead with a surgery like this provides the relief of no longer being at high risk, but it can also result in lasting side-effects that may not settle down with time,” Dr Price said.
“Impacts on sexual function and ongoing menopausal symptoms aren’t necessarily deciding factors when women are considering these surgeries. Such side-effects often aren’t expected to impact for so long, and it’s something that needs more dialogue so women can be as informed as possible when making their decisions, and seek help for persistent symptoms sooner rather than later.”