Are Double Mastectomies Necessary for Women With Breast Cancer?

A new study presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s Quality Care Symposium last month concluded that about 70% of women who have both breasts removed following a breast cancer diagnosis do so despite a very low risk of having subsequent cancer in the healthy breast.

The study found that 90% of wom,en who had surgery to remove both breast reported being worried about cancer recurring., The researchers said “Women appear to be using worry over cancer recurrence to choose contralateral prophylactic mastectomy. This does not make sense, because having a non-affected breast removed will not reduce the risk of recurrence in the affected breast.  ”

One thousand four hundred forty six women who had been treated for breast cancer and who had not had recurrence were included in the study.  Of these, 7% had surgery to remove both breasts and among women who had a mastectomy, nearly 1 in 5 had a double mastectomy.

Researchers also collected data on clinical indications for double mastectomy, including patients family history of breast and ovarian cancer and the results of any genetic testing. “For women who do not have a strong family history or a genetic finding, we would argue it’s probably not appropriate to get the unaffected breast removed.” The researchers are developing a decision tool that will help guide women through breast cancer treatment choices. The researchers said “I believe surgeons are telling their patients that a contralateral mastectomy won’t reduce their risk of recurrence and that it is associated with higher mortality. But this procedure is still done and it’s done in women who donm;t need to have it done. A decision tool like ours will solicit common misconceptions about breast cancer treatment and give women feedback to help them fully understand the options and risks involved.”

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