Double mastectomy “not necessary” for most women
The majority of women with breast cancer who receive a double mastectomy—the removal of both breasts—may have a very low risk of cancer in the healthy breast, according to new research.
Scientists from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center examined data on 1,447 women who had been treated for breast cancer and had not had a recurrence. They found that 8 percent of the women had a double mastectomy, and 18 percent had considered the surgery. Researchers also found that about 75 percent of the total women were worried about breast cancer recurrence, with a higher concern coming from the women who had had a double mastectomy.
The researchers then compared the women’s perceived health risks with actual risk. They assessed the women’s family history of breast cancer and genetic testing results, since evidence has shown a correlation between family history and cancer recurrence. The findings showed that about 70 percent of the women who had had a double mastectomy had no family history or a positive genetic test. Researchers said that removing the unaffected breast in women without a strong family history of a genetic finding was unlikely to affect chance of cancer recurrence.
The results suggest that it is important for women to be better educated about risks and benefits of the double mastectomy surgery, but that surgeons should also be mindful of how a patient’s concerns could affect her decision.