Research released Tuesday may raise new debate about the best way to fight breast cancer.
Women diagnosed with cancer in one breast can choose from several treatments, including removing the cancerous breast, removing both breasts or having breast conserving surgery and radiation.
The new study looked at whether the different options led to differences in the survival rates.
In recent years the percentage of women having a double mastectomy to treat breast cancer in one breast has increased at a rate of 14-percent a year.
"What we don't know is what happens to those women afterward and whether they gain any benefit in terms of survival," says study co-author. Dr. Allison w. Kurian, Stanford University School of Medicine
Researchers reviewed the records of more than 189,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer during the past decade. For about 7 years, they followed women with early stage cancer diagnosed in just one breast, who underwent a single mastectomy, a double mastectomy, or breast conserving surgery with radiation.
The study showed that women under 40 were undergoing double mastectomy at a much higher rate. In 2011. Nearly a third of patients in that age group had both breasts removed,
Dr. Scarlett Gomez of the Cancer Prenvetion Institute of California was a co-author of the study. She says, "women who had double mastectomy did not seem to have any better survival than women who had the other two surgical procedures."
The women who had just the single mastectomy did have worse survival than those who had breast conserving surgery and radiation, or double mastectomy.
Women having double mastectomy tended to be non-Hispanic whites with a higher social and economic status and private insurance. Those having single mastectomy were more likely minorities, with lower social and economic status and public insurance.
Researchers say double mastectomy has a higher complication rate than single mastectomy or breast conserving surgery with radiation.