HERMOSA BEACH (CBSLA.com) — A Hermosa Beach mother made the decision to undergo a double mastectomy even though she doesn’t have breast cancer.
Jennifer Caras’ family, however, has a history of the life-threatening disease.
Her sister, Julie, passed away at the age of 28 from a brain tumor, and her mother and grandmother battled breast cancer.
Those circumstances impacted Caras’ decision to remove both of her breasts in January.
“I always feel like I have three good reasons to do it and it’s my three little ones. I’ve got to be around for them a long time, and I’ve got to be healthy,” she said.
Dr. Stephen Sener, the chief of surgical oncology at Keck Medical Center of USC, said there are many reasons patients undergo elective mastectomies.
In addition, multiple factors go into determining a patient’s risk of developing breast cancer.
“Have they been gene tested? What’s really the family history? Is it just breast cancer? How many people with breast cancer? Is there a history of ovarian cancer in the family?” he said.
According to Sener, instead of surgery, some patients choose to take the anti-estrogen drug Tamoxifen, which has shown to cut the risk of developing breast cancer in half.
“For some people, that’s enough to have a conversation about, but for others, half is still no good,” Sener said.
While surgery drastically reduces the risk of breast cancer, there are side effects and a 1 percent chance that cancer will develop.
Sener said, “After doing this for 30 years, I’ve never had someone come back and tell me that they did the wrong thing… after they’ve had a prophylactic mastectomy.”
Caras said with her family’s support, she’s ready to move forward.
“Taking this into my own hands and eliminating my risk…it is a big decision. It is a big decision, but it feels right and it feels empowering to take it off my plate,” she said.