Study Questions Need for Double Mastectomy

Majority of women have very low risk of cancer in healthy breast.

New research raises questions about which breast cancer patients should consider having a double mastectomy.
Recent studies show an increase in women with breast cancer choosing this more aggressive surgery. Now, new research from the University of Michigan finds that a majority of them have a very low risk of cancer in the healthy breast.

The study found that, nearly 70 percent of women getting a double mastectomy did not have either a family history or a positive genetic test and many were candidates for lumpectomy.

Only ten percent of breast cancer patients have a family history or positive genetic test for the disease. The lead reseracher says women without these factors are very unlikely to develop cancer in the healthy breast.

"Women appear to be using worry over cancer recurrence to choose contralateral prophylactic mastectomy (double mastectomy). This does not make sense, because having a non-affected breast removed will not reduce the risk of recurrence in the affected breast," says Sarah Hawley, Ph.D., associate professor of internal medicine at the U-M Medical School.

According to the American Cancer Society, 235,030 Americans will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year and 40,430 will die from the disease.

The study, sponsored by the National Cancer Institute, is in the current issue of Jama Surgery.

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