Celebrities Influence Breast Cancer Choices
Women have more resources than ever to get viable information on breast cancer, and that may be a problem.
That’s because one of the more influential resources seems to be celebrity experiences.
A study from the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor looked at news stories from 1992 to 2014 concerning celebrities with breast cancer. They found that double-mastectomies tended to garner the most publicity, possibly due to the procedure’s radical nature.
In many cases, the bilateral mastectomy procedure became the dominant theme of the news story.
Researchers reviewed two news databases for reports of celebrities with breast cancer. They found 17 cases, ranging from actress Olivia Newton-John's diagnosis in 1992 to television personality Joan Lunden in 2014.
They discovered that media reports increased significantly after 2004, and there were dramatic increases in the number of articles mentioning bilateral mastectomies in 2008 and 2009.
About 45% of the stories mentioned the surgical procedure when the celebrities had both of their breasts removed, but only about 26% when only one breast or just the tumor was removed.
More women with breast cancer are opting to remove both breasts simultaneously, even though there's no evidence that the practice improves survival in women who show no a genetic risk for breast cancer.
A small survey published last year in Annals of Surgery found that half of women with cancer in one breast -- but no gene mutations that increase their risk -- were interested in removing their healthy breast to avoid a second cancer there.
For this study team, the bottom line is that women really need to get information from reliable sources before they make this serious decision.