Despite this fact, the number of women insisting on having a healthy breast surgically removed along with their cancerous breast has grown substantially since the l990s. A University of Michigan and Sloan Kettering Cancer Center study of nearly 2,300 breast cancer patients, published in JAMA Surgery, found about 70 percent of women who had prophylactic mastectomy of a healthy breast had no family history of breast cancer and didn’t have an abnormal BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene.
The reason behind the removal of a health breast appears to be a fear of breast cancer. However, for the vast majority of women with breast cancer, having a healthy breast removed does not improve the odds of survival, according to the findings of a study published in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute which reviewed data on 108,000 women who underwent mastectomy — including about 9,000 who had a healthy breast removed along with a cancerous breast.
The results suggested a very slight survival benefit for a specific subset of breast cancer patients younger than 50 with early stage estrogen-receptor-negative tumors. But for all the rest of the breast cancer patients, having a healthy breast removed had no effect at all on their long-term survival.
“Part of the reason women are frightened is we haven’t given them good information. Part of my hope with this study is to tell most breast cancer patients that it’s O.K. not to do this (have a healthy breast removed),” MD Anderson Cancer Center oncologist Isabelle Bedrosian, MD, who headed the study, told The New York Times.
Bottom line: If you have cancer in one breast, the odds are great you don’t need to have your other, healthy breast removed. Discuss your genetic risk and other factors with your doctor before you make a decision on a double mastectomy that isn’t medically necessary.
Consider the fact breast reconstruction surgery will keep you from experiencing sensation in your reconstructed breasts. In addition, a double mastectomy is more expensive, risky, and prone to complications than the other two surgical approaches to treat cancer in one breast — a lumpectomy with radiation or a unilateral mastectomy — according to Francis Collins, MD, director of the National Institutes of Health.
March 16, 2020
Janet O’Dell, RN