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The health ministry decided Friday to extend public health insurance to cover mastectomies and oophorectomies for people with breast or ovarian cancer who are at risk of developing further tumors due to a hereditary mutation.

The number of people choosing to undergo the preventive surgeries is increasing as they have been found to reduce the risk of developing fatal cancers, prompting medical societies and patients to request coverage as the procedures often cost hundreds of thousands of yen.

Those eligible for insurance coverage are people with cancer who have been diagnosed with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome, an inherited genetic disorder in which the risk of developing cancer in those organs is higher than for other people.

The coverage will not extend to people who have yet to develop cancer but wish to undergo preventive surgery.

Counseling will be offered to patients to help them decide how their disease should be treated. Insurance will also cover ultrasounds and other follow-up tests for those who do not wish to undergo surgery.

Some medical reports say hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome patients have about a 50 percent chance of developing breast cancer by the age of 70, and many people develop it before 50. They also are at higher risk of developing cancer in their opposite breast after already dealing with a case in the other.

Of the approximately 110,000 people who are newly diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer in Japan every year, about 5 to 10 percent are said to be hereditary — most of whom have hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome.

The Japanese Breast Cancer Society’s guideline “strongly recommends” preventive mastectomies for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer patients with breast cancer, and the removal of ovaries and fallopian tubes for patients who have no desire to have a child.

The ministry’s decision came after it proposed the plan to an advisory panel to the health minister and won approval on the same day.

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