Breast cancer

Updated 20 November 2017

Huge surge in preventive mastectomies

A study found that preventive mastectomy (contralateral prophylactic mastectomy) has doubled in the United States over the past 10 years.

Fear of cancer recurrence seems to be a primary reason why breast cancer patients choose to have their cancer-free breast removed at the same time as their affected breast, a new study finds.

Fear of recurrence

The rate of this type of surgery – called contralateral prophylactic mastectomy (CPM) – doubled in the United States in the past 10 years. Recent data suggest that up to 25 percent of newly diagnosed breast cancer patients undergo this procedure, the study authors noted.

The researchers wanted to find out why so many patients decide to have the surgery. They looked at breast cancer patient postings in an online health community.

Along with fear of cancer recurrence, many women believe that a double mastectomy is the best treatment for breast cancer, the investigators found.

Read: Breast conservation vs mastectomy

Some patients had already had a breast cancer recurrence and decided on preventive mastectomy in an effort to stop the cancer from returning for good. Others said plastic surgeons said CPM would help lead to better breast reconstruction surgery outcomes, the study findings showed.

Correcting misconceptions

The study is to be presented at a meeting of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) in Washington, D.C.

"Now we have a better understanding of what beliefs some patients hold, which is that CPM is the best treatment for breast cancer. We also were able to study what patients are saying to each other about CPM," said study lead author Dr Rebecca Marmor, a general surgery resident at the University of California, San Diego.

Read: Persistent pain after mastectomy common

"Now that we have a sense of what they're saying to each other, we want to work to correct their misconceptions," Marmor said in an ACS news release.

Research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

In May 2013, actress Angelina Jolie revealed that she had undergone preventive double mastectomy when she found out she had a substantially increased risk of developing cancer due to her genes.

Read more:

Preventative mastectomy has little benefit

Sharon Osbourne has double mastectomy

Mastectomy not always the first choice


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Breast cancer expert

Dr Gudgeon qualified in Birmingham, England, in 1968. She has more than 40 years experience in oncology, and in 1994 she founded her practice, Cape Breast Care, where she treats benign and malignant breast cancers. Dr Boeddinghaus obtained her qualification at UCT Medical School in 1994 and her MRCP in London in 1998. She has worked extensively in the field of oncology and has a special interest in the hormonal management of breast cancer. She now works with Dr Gudgeon at Cape Breast Care. Read more.

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