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Double Mastectomy Rate Continues to Rise

Successfully battling cancer in one breast doesn’t mean the disease won’t also present in the other at some point down the road. Although quite rare, this potential eventuality has kicked off a trend for women to undergo prophylactic double mastectomies even when evidence of cancer is found in only one breast. The use of this measure has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years. Researchers say, in fact, that double mastectomy rates exploded by 150 percent between 1998 and 2003. The numbers don’t appear to be slowing down despite inconclusive evidence that this move can enhance survival likelihood.

Some clinicians are concerned that prophylactic mastectomies are being overused by women and their healthcare providers. One study found that the 10-year cumulative risk for contralateral breast cancer is about 4 to 5 percent. Even so, women who are considered low risk for this condition are opting to undergo double mastectomies any way. Studies into the likelihood that prophylactic mastectomies can improve survival rates have been largely conflicting, leading some to counsel that the risks of double surgery are likely to outweigh perceived benefits in many cases. Women who are at high risk for contralateral breast cancer, however, are still urged to consider the double mastectomy option.

Breast cancer strikes about 246,000 American women each year. An estimated 40,000 women die from the disease. Prophylactic mastectomies are generally reserved for women who are at high risk for the development of cancer in the second breast. Genetic mutation indicators, for example, may signal the need for this type of intervention.
Women who are concerned about breast cancer are urged to talk to their doctors. Early detection through the use of tests, such as a mammogram, can lead to highly successful treatment. Should concerns about recurrence in the second breast be present, women should carefully weigh the risks versus the potential benefits of a double mastectomy before moving forward.

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