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Increased Use of Double Mastectomies Raising Concern

An estimated 246,000 American women are diagnosed with invasive breast cancer each year in the United States. Many of these women will find a host of treatment options are available to them. In some cases, breast removal may be recommended. For a small percentage, recommendations will be made for the removal of both breasts to help prevent a recurrence down the road. The number of women opting for double mastectomies is on the rise, however, and it’s making researchers take pause since the procedures may not always be medically necessary.

Researchers have found that a large number of younger women diagnosed with breast cancer are choosing bilateral mastectomies out of concern about genetic risk. The concern for researchers comes in because many of these women have tested negative for the BRCA genetic mutation that might indicate the need to have both breasts removed. When a BRCA mutation is not present, the likelihood of the second breast developing cancer is small.

Researchers say the rising rate of double mastectomies in the absence of genetic mutations sheds light on the need for better communication among patients and their healthcare providers. Double mastectomies can lower the risk of recurrence, but they do present with a number of enhanced risks. Add to this the fact that the likelihood of developing cancer in the second breast is very small for those without the mutation and the concern about over treatment is high.

Women who are diagnosed with breast cancer or are concerned about their risks should discuss all treatment options with their healthcare providers. If genetic testing is advised, it is imperative that women undergo counseling to help them understand the results and the implications. Double mastectomies have become highly popularized since celebrity Angela Jolie opted for this measure out of an abundance of caution. Women without a BRCA mutation can still exercise this option, but it simply may not be necessary.

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