Life after Double Mastectomy

The fear of breast cancer – particularly in women who have experienced it within their own families – is driving more and more women to the drastic solution of double mastectomy.

But is that a good idea?

An increasing number of women are opting to have both breasts removed after a diagnosis of breast cancer, even though doctors say the operation does not improve the chances of survival. Now a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, based on surveys of thousands of women, suggests women who have double mastectomies also do not benefit from a big improvement in quality of life, either.

The number of women opting to remove the cancerous breast and the healthy breast -- a procedure known as contralateral prophylactic mastectomy or C.P.M. -- has dramatically increased in recent years. In 2011, about 11% of women who were having a mastectomy for cancer chose C.P.M., compared with less than 2% in 1998.

Some breast cancer doctors are concerned by the trend, which they expect to increase. Women with early-stage breast cancer have the same odds of survival whether they have a lumpectomy or a mastectomy, and research suggests the risk of a cancer in the contralateral breast is low. But many women say they want to eliminate even the most negligible risk of a recurrence or cancer in their healthy breast.

The new study found most important factor in a woman’s overall well-being was whether she had had reconstructive surgery. Most women who had such surgery reported substantially higher quality of life scores, whether they had single or double mastectomies.

Sourced from: The New York Times, No Regrets After Double Mastectomy, but Questions Remain