Preventive Mastectomies: One Northampton Woman’s Story

The rate of preventive mastectomies has been rising in recent years,  and that’s causing some concern from doctors. They say removing both breasts is often unnecessary.

But there’s one circumstance even the critics say warrants an extreme measure. A small number of women – less than one percent of the population – have a gene mututation called BRCA1 or 2.  For women with the gene, the risk of getting breast cancer goes up to 87 percent, and the risk of ovarian cancer is 40 percent.

Sara Simmons, a 38-year-old elementary school teacher in Northampton, is in that group. After learning she had the BRCA 1 gene, she opted for a double mastectomy. Simmons says she first heard about the genetic test nine years ago. Her mother was dying of cancer and she urged simmons to get tested for the gene.