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Clinical Management of BRCA Mutation Carriers


For women who are premenopausal at the time of surgery, the symptoms of surgical menopause (e.g., hot flashes, mood swings, weight gain, and genitourinary complaints) can cause a significant impairment in their quality of life. To reduce the impact of these symptoms, providers have often prescribed a time-limited course of systemic HRT after surgery. (Refer to the Hormone replacement therapy in BRCA1/BRCA2 mutation carriers section of this summary for more information.)

Studies have examined the effect of RRSO on quality of life (QOL). One study examined 846 high-risk women of whom 44% underwent RRSO and 56% had periodic screening.[184] Of the 368 BRCA1/BRCA2 mutation carriers, 72% underwent RRSO. No significant differences were observed in QOL scores (as assessed by the Short Form-36) between those with RRSO or screening or compared with the general population; however, women with RRSO had fewer breast and ovarian cancer worries (P < .001), more favorable cancer risk perception (P < .05) but more endocrine symptoms (P < .001) and worse sexual functioning (P < .05). Of note, 37% of women used HRT following RRSO, although 62% were either perimenopausal or postmenopausal.[184] Researchers then examined 450 premenopausal high-risk women who had chosen either RRSO (36%) or screening (64%). Of those in the RRSO group, 47% used HRT. HRT users (n = 77) had fewer vasomotor symptoms than nonusers (n = 87; P < .05), but they had more vasomotor symptoms than women in the screening group (n = 286). Likewise, women who underwent RRSO and used HRT had more sexual discomfort due to vaginal dryness and dyspareunia than those in the screening group (P < .01). Therefore, while such symptoms are improved via HRT use, HRT is not completely effective and additional research is warranted to address these important issues.

The long-term nononcologic effects of RRSO in BRCA1/BRCA2 mutation carriers are unknown. In the general population, RRSO has been associated with increased cardiovascular disease, dementia, death from lung cancer, and overall mortality.[185,186,187,188,189] When age at oophorectomy has been analyzed, the most detrimental effect has been seen in women who undergo RRSO before age 45 years and do not take estrogen-replacement therapy.[185]BRCA1/BRCA2 mutation carriers undergoing RRSO may have an increased risk of metabolic syndrome.[190] RRSO has also been associated with an improvement in short-term mortality in this population.[147] The benefits related to cancer risk reduction following RRSO are clear, but further data on the long-term nononcologic risks and benefits are needed.


Oral contraceptives

Oral contraceptives have been shown to have a protective effect against ovarian cancer in the general population.[191] Several studies including a large, multicenter case-control study showed a protective effect,[101,192,193,194,195] while one population-based study from Israel failed to demonstrate a protective effect.[196]


WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: May 16, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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