DEAR HARRIETTE: My family has a history of breast cancer, and I am nearing an age where my rate of developing cancer is getting higher. I have been considering getting a preventive double mastectomy. Although this is not necessary for me right now, I want the closest thing to 100 percent certainty that I will see my grandchildren get married.
I have spoken to my doctor, and he recommends waiting on the mastectomy, provided I get frequent checkups to see if I develop something. However, he does note that I should do whatever I am most comfortable with. My husband has told the rest of my family about my medical dilemma, and now I am getting opinions from all sides. I want my medical opinions coming from my doctor only. -- Risky Business, Washington, D.C.
DEAR RISKY BUSINESS: It is understandable that you would be nervous about your health, given your family history. But it is also wise for you to consult with your doctor -- and to get a second opinion. Consult another cancer specialist, and have that doctor review your medical history to give you a second recommendation. I have spoken to many women who have a family history of breast cancer who have made a range of choices based upon medical input and their own instincts.
There now are a host of tests that can help to pinpoint the likelihood of you getting cancer. Take advantage of the new technology before taking extreme action. By all means, stay on top of your health.