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Sharon Osbourne Becomes a Breast Cancer Previvor

By November 5, 2012

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Sharon Osbourne just celebrated her 60th birthday, 30 years of marriage to rocker Ozzy Osbourne, and success as a television personality. Never shy or terribly private about her life, she has just revealed that she has had a prophylactic double mastectomy. The vibrant and outspoken celebrity was not diagnosed with breast cancer, but recently found out that she has one of the genes for breast cancer - possibly BRCA1 or BRCA2. Having a genetic mutation like this increases her odds for eventually developing breast cancer, and since she is already a colon cancer survivor, she knew what the road ahead might be like. "I've had cancer before and I didn't want to live under that cloud: I decided to just take everything off, and had a double mastectomy," said Osbourne.

Having a double mastectomy is difficult physically and emotionally, but when there is no breast cancer to remove, we say the woman is a previvor. A cancer survivor has been diagnosed with the disease, but a previvor has faced having a high risk, or genetic predisposition to cancer. After having genetic testing, your results will range from negative to positive to ambiguous. There's no way to know in advance what the test results will show of what your odds of risk for cancer will be - but it will affect your future health decisions and even your lifestyle choices.

For young women, the choice of surgery to reduce the risk of breast cancer may be particularly difficult. Surgical options can include mastectomy, as well as removal of ovaries or uterus. If a premenopausal woman finds that her genetic risk is higher than average, she may even wait some years before having surgery, if she had plans for more children. But she may also be advised to take hormonal therapy to reduce her risk, and that would include estrogen-lowering medications. Either way, her decision will affect her fertility, but treatment for breast cancer - if it develops - would also limit her ability to conceive.

In Sharon Osbourne's case, she has a grandchild to consider. "I want to be around for a long time and be a grandmother to Pearl," she said, referring to Jack Osbourne's first child. She said her decision about the double mastectomy was, "a no-brainer."

Her surgery took 13 hours, so it's safe to assume that she had immediate breast reconstruction. No stranger to plastic surgery, she already had trouble with breast implants that were used to create her 34DD bust line. The implants had leaked into her abdominal cavity. My guess is that she could have opted for autologous reconstruction - based on the time the operation took - so a free flap method such as DIEP or IGAP - both of which use self-donated tissues - may have been options for her. Recovery is expected to take from three to six weeks. She'll need plenty of family support during that time, and I hope her colorful relatives are up for the task. We wish her well!

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November 5, 2012 at 2:28 pm
(1) Patricia J. Menke says:

That’s okay but I would like for women who thinks a baby in the womb is gonna harm her should have a hysterectomy or have her tubes disabled to prevent pregnancy. I bet if they recited the Biblical verses: Matthew 5: 29-30 to the Pope, he may except this birth control. Killing innocent babies will ‘never’ be exceptable, moral or ethical.

November 7, 2012 at 5:40 pm
(2) Haralee says:

Pam, I am not so sure Sharon’s statement about living under a cloud is such a sure thing with her double mastectomy! Nothing in cancer is 100% a sure thing!

November 9, 2012 at 4:51 pm
(3) Janet Luxton says:

My heart goes out to Sharon ten-fold. My 2 sisters and niece and I are BRCA1+, our mom died of bc at only 41, one sister was diagnosed with bc at only 34 yet she is now a 20-yr survivor due to preventive measures. At 47, I am trying to decide to undergo prophylactic surgery to be around for my children for as long as I can. I admire Sharon, it’s a difficult choice and those of us with the gene mutation are rarely understood by those who are not. You face so much criticism from people who think you are radical for doing what you feel is best to be around for your family and it’s wrong and hurtful.

Virtual hugs xoxo

November 20, 2012 at 11:11 pm
(4) Sara says:

For Janet and others I fully understand what it takes to make that final choice. Jan 2013 will be my anniversary for my pbm. My mother was diagnosed at 35yo shortly after I was born. My sister diagnosed at 49yo. My breasts were less than ideal and after a lump scare I said TAKE THEM OFF! The immediate relief was huge. Our family did not test positive for the gene so you could say my decision was even more drastic in others opinion. Here I was a healthy 46 yo wanting to have both of my breasts removed. Fact was I wanted to live without this hanging over my head. Being exposed to breast cancer at an early age my 34 years of age I did not want my kids to have to see this or be affected by it. I am proud that my mother was a survivor for 34 years. I am glad things so far have worked out for my sister. To those who think we are so extreme in doing this medical procedure I say lets just see who is left standing! Enjoy your life Janet and jump in with both feet. I have and have not regretted my decision yet. Previvor 1/2010 pbm w/out reconstruction Sara

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