The entire article is available via open access (full reference below). Women with the BRCA gene (both 1 and 2) often elect to have prophylactic mastectomy to reduce their risks of developing breast carcinoma. This is even more so for the contralateral breast when a primary is found. Skin-sparing mastectomies (SSM) and nipple-sparing mastectomies (NSM) greatly improve the cosmetic results for women undergoing reconstruction. Traditionally, the NAC has been removed due to concerns of possible tumor recurrence or development of a new primary in the remaining breast tissue of the NAC.
The article notes "numerous retrospective studies have shown a wide range(0-58%) of nipple involvement by tumor in mastectomy specimens."
This retrospective study involves a small cohort of 33 patients (25 BRCA1, 8 BRCA2) who underwent mastectomy between March 1987 and June 2009 treated at Mayo Clinic. The entire nipple-areolar complex (NAC) was excised and evaluated histologically. There was a total of 62 NACs available for evaluation. [TDLS = terminal duct lobular units]
Sixty-two NACs from 33 women (25 BRCA1, 8 BRCA2) were studied. TDLUs were present in 15 (24%) NAC specimens. No evidence of atypical hyperplasia, carcinoma in situ, or invasive carcinoma was found in any of the 33 prophylactic mastectomy specimens. Among the 29 breasts with cancer and available tissue, 2 (7%) had malignant findings and 1 (3%) had atypia in the NAC. One woman who underwent bilateral mastectomy for bilateral invasive carcinoma had one nipple with tumor within lymphatics, and her contralateral nipple had atypical lobular hyperplasia. A second woman had ductal carcinoma in situ involving a single major lactiferous duct..
They conclude the probability of premalignant or malignant lesions in the NAC of BRCA carriers is low overall. It must be remembered that it is higher (10%) in the subgroup of women undergoing therapeutic mastectomy. It may be safe for select women with BRCA mutations to have a nipple sparing procedure, but she and her physicians (oncologist and surgeon) should have a frank discussion about her individual case.
Prophylactic and Therapeutic Mastectomy in BRCA Mutation Carriers: Can the Nipple Be Preserved?; Carol Reynolds, Jennifer A. Davidson, Noralane M. Lindor, Katrina N. Glazebrook, James W. Jakub, Amy C. Degnim, Nicole P. Sandhu, Molly F. Walsh, Lynn C. Hartmann and Judy C. Boughey; Annals of Surgical Oncology Volume 18, Number 11, 3102-3109, DOI: 10.1245/s10434-011-1908-8