BRCA Status Doesn't Affect Survival in Young-Onset Breast Cancer


The study included 2733 women from 127 hospitals in the United Kingdom who had been diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 40 or below.

The BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations are known to put women at an increased risk of developing cancer. The mutations put women at greater risk of breast and ovarian cancers, with 45 to 90 per cent of women with the mutation developing breast cancer during their lifetime.

Women who have BRCA mutations do as well after treatment for breast cancer as other patients, British researchers reported Thursday.

Professor Diana Eccles, head of cancer sciences at the University of Southampton, said: "Our study is the largest of its kind, and our findings suggest that younger women with breast cancer who have a BRCA mutation have similar survival to women who do not carry the mutation after receiving treatment".

Women with the gene faults are advised to have regular screening for breast cancer and some, such as Angelina Jolie, choose to have preventative surgery, such as a double mastectomy, to limit their chances of breast cancer diagnosis.

An estimated 55 to 65 percent of women with a cancer-causing BRCA1 mutation will develop breast cancer by age 70, the National Cancer Institute says.

This UK study findings suggest mastectomies and other invasive preventive surgery may not be necessary soon after diagnosis, as has been the norm.

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"In particular, being able to give some women with triple negative breast cancer the choice to delay a risk-reducing mastectomy would allow them to take back control of a major part of their treatment and offer them more time to recover from their initial therapy".

During this time, 23.8% of the women died as a result of breast cancer. Most importantly, they uncovered that there was no difference in overall survival two, five, or ten years after diagnosis for women with and without a BRCA mutation. "Decisions about timing of additional surgery to reduce future cancer risks should take into account patient prognosis after their first cancer, and their personal preferences".

The results were the same whether mutations were in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, according to the study published January 11 in The Lancet Oncology.

In the trial, Lynparza - developed with Merck & Co Inc - significantly prolonged progression-free survival compared with chemotherapy, and reduced the risk of disease progression or death by 42%.

This means that breast cancer patients can wait and see how they feel about things and how their health is before they decide whether to have more surgery - for instance, to remove the healthy breast to lower any risk that breast cancer might return in that one.

These findings were consistent regardless of whether mutations were in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, the researchers report. On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration announced that the agency was expanding its approval for a drug called Lynparza to treat breast cancer in people who were BRCA carriers.