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More Women Choosing Preventative Mastectomies

For the estimated 246,000 American women diagnosed with breast cancer each year, the potential need for a mastectomy or double mastectomy can be very frightening. This aggressive treatment measure is body altering in a permanent way and can leave women feeling low in the self-esteem department. Even so, this surgical procedure can and does save lives when it is indicated. Many women, however, are now taking the initiative by requesting preventative mastectomies to help them avoid complications associated with breast cancer recurrences down the road.

A recent study found that that the number of preventative mastectomies has been on the rise for the past decade or so. A number of women are choosing this option, researchers have found, even when the move is not likely to offer any significant survival benefits.

The study in question analyzed nearly 500,000 women who had been diagnosed with stage I, II or III cancer in one breast, but not the other. Researchers found that nearly 60 percent of these women did opt for breast-conserving treatments. One third chose to have the entire affected breast removed. About 7 percent chose to also have their healthy breast removed, as well. Overall, researchers have noted an increase in the use of prophylactic mastectomies from 3.9 percent in 2002 to nearly 13 percent in 2012.

The reasons that motivate women to consider mastectomies when they are not strictly called for are many. Some point to the example set by actress Angelina Jolie. Others say patient misunderstanding of genetic testing results may be partially to blame. Many others, however, note that women sometimes choose this path simply to help lower their risks of ever having to face down breast cancer again in their lifetimes.

Women who are diagnosed with breast cancer are urged to talk to their doctors about their options. Prophylactic mastectomies may prove to be wise decisions in some cases, but not all women will find the need – or a benefit – is present. There are risks associated with this choice that women should also be very aware of before moving forward.

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