Researchers have found a 150 percent increase between 1998 and 2003 in American women who choose to have both breasts removed when cancer has been found in one breast.
I reported not long ago on Oklahoma’s rank in the number of women who choose to have a prophylactic mastectomy or choose to have a mastectomy rather than lumpectomy despite general agreement among doctors and researchers that survival chances are equal for both procedures.
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The recent study, published in the Oct. 22 edition of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, was the first to examine the trend on a national level. The study’s authors caution that aggressively removing both breasts may not be necessary since most patients will never develop cancer in the second breast, and the risk of cancer spreading to other parts of the body is a greater threat that development of cancer in the second breast.
“Although breast cancer is now often diagnosed at earlier stages, we’re seeing more women having contralateral prophylactic mastectomy, even though there are very little data showing that this irreversible procedure improves overall survival,” study author Dr. Todd M. Tuttle said in a press release. Tuttle is chief of surgical oncology and associate professor of surgery at the University of Minnesota. “We need to determine why this is occurring and use this information to help counsel women about the potential for less invasive options.”
Among 152,755 women diagnosed with state I, II or III breast cancer during the period studied, 59,460 underwent single mastectomy; 4,969 other women who were candidates for single mastectomy chose to have the other breast removed as well.
Tuttle suggested reasons women choose to remove the second breast is an increase in public awareness of the role of genetics in breast cancer and more frequent testing for certain gene mutations, which increase the risk of cancer in the second breast. He also attributed the increase to less invasive mastectomy techniques and improved breast reconstruction.
This subject particularly interests me because I can’t imagine how difficult the decision must be for women who are vulnerable and reeling from being told they have cancer.
Jeff Raymond, Medical Writer