Open Access Open Badges Research article

Time to decide about risk-reducing mastectomy: A case series of BRCA1/2 gene mutation carriers

Mary McCullum1*, Joan L Bottorff23, Mary Kelly2, Stephanie A Kieffer24 and Lynda G Balneaves2

Author Affiliations

1 Hereditary Cancer Program, BC Cancer Agency, Vancouver, BC, Canada

2 School of Nursing, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada

3 Faculty of Health and Social Development, University of British Columbia – Okanagan, Kelowna, BC, Canada

4 Department of Medical Genetics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada

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BMC Women's Health 2007, 7:3  doi:10.1186/1472-6874-7-3

Published: 6 March 2007



The purpose of this research was to explore women's decision-making experiences related to the option of risk-reducing mastectomy (RM), using a case series of three women who are carriers of a BRCA1/2 gene mutation.


Data was collected in a pilot study that assessed the response of women to an information booklet about RM and decision-making support strategies. A detailed analysis of three women's descriptions of their decision-making processes and outcomes was conducted.


All three women were carriers of a BRCA1/2 gene mutation and, although undecided, were leaning towards RM when initially assessed. Each woman reported a different RM decision outcome at last follow-up. Case #1 decided not to have RM, stating that RM was "too radical" and early detection methods were an effective strategy for dealing with breast cancer risk. Case #2 remained undecided about RM and, over time, she became less prepared to make a decision because she felt she did not have sufficient information about surgical effects. Case #3 had undergone RM by the time of her second follow-up interview and reported that she felt "a load off (her) mind now".


RM decision making may shift over time and require decision support over an extended period.