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Recent Study Shows That Prophylactic Mastectomy Is on the Rise

Would You Undergo a Mastectomy to Protect Yourself From Breast Cancer?

A diagnosis of breast cancer is a life-changing moment that will affect almost 200,000 women this year. If faced with the diagnosis, one question your doctor will ask you to consider is whether or not you would remove a non-cancerous breast to protect yourself against the disease. The procedure is called prophylactic mastectomy, and a recent study shows that it's on the rise.

The study, conducted by the American Cancer Society, found that patients in New York who had cancer in one breast but also removed their non-cancerous breast doubled during the period of 1995-2005. During that same period there was also a slight increase in cancer-free patients who chose to remove both healthy breasts. It's likely that these women were at high risk because of family history, or they tested positive for the gene mutation associated with the disease. This is why actress Christina Applegate opted for the double mastectomy.

Although prophylactic mastectomy dramatically reduces the risk of developing breast cancer in the future, it has not been shown to increase the chances of survival from already existing breast cancer. However, many patients choose to undergo the procedure to quell anxiety.

As we begin our coverage of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I am curious to know what you would do in this situation . . .


Image Source: Getty
Join The Conversation
Autumns_Elegy Autumns_Elegy 7 years
wackdoodle, thats insane! Doctors should listen to request like that! Your sister knows whats best for her, and now she has to face all that because some idiot refused to reduce her chances of the cancer spreading! Screams of malpractice to me... If I had cancer in one breast and I had to have it removed, I'd have the other off as well.
wackdoodle wackdoodle 7 years
NOW just freaking 20 minutes ago my sister called me. A week ago she finished her massive radiation on her left breast for the triple negative invasive ductile breast cancer that she was diagnosed with at the end of October 2008. Well this morning at 8:30am she had a scheduled mammogram on her remaining supposedly cancer free breast and guess what? THREE F-KING SPOTS LIT UP IN HER "HEALTHY BREAST!" So now she has to go through the same stupid American Medicine waiting game. Of waiting for another radiologist to wet read the first mammo - then waiting a few weeks and getting a 2nd mammogram then waiting another 2 to 4 or more weeks to get a MRI of the right "Healthy" breast. Then if it really is cancer in the "Healthy Breast" then she will have to wait 6 more weeks for a nuclear PET Scan then who knows how long again for oncoloigsts and surgeons to discuss what to do and then FAIL to follow through again. Meanwhile my sister is right now sitting curled up in a ball in her lazyboy chair crying not that she may have to go through the whole thing again but that the doctor's didn't listen to her and that her insurance company refused her request to have BOTH BREASTS REMOVED at the same time. She's sitting crying feeling alone in this situation wondering how the hell she's going to pay her mortgage and if she's going to lose her job because she's been off since she was first diagnosed at the end of last October then how will she pay the huge COBRA payment and pay for the medications that go along with Chemo and radiation. For every person who saysthe US government should not step up and offer Healthcare coverage for all Americans regardless of situation, you tell me how someone who has worked since she got out of college at 20 as a dedicated nurse, paid her taxes, voted everytime, helped those in need, can possibly be put into a situation where she cannot turn to her government to help protect her life and possibly extend it. Sheer f-ing greed and hatred of your fellow Americans is the reason why we Americans do not have mandatory government health insurance.
sparklestar sparklestar 7 years
If I was at high risk (which I'm not, thankfully) then I would remove a healthy breast if I had cancer in the other one. Definitely.
lilxmissxmolly lilxmissxmolly 7 years
I would do it if there was family history, etc. Fortunately there isn't.
Wild-Magelet Wild-Magelet 7 years
*sorry, I meant to say, my family has the BRCA2 gene.
Wild-Magelet Wild-Magelet 7 years
I don't know, to be honest. In the last year, we've discovered that almost my entire maternal family has the BRCA1 gene, including my mother, who has already had breast cancer. She's having a mastectomy and her ovaries removed in the next few months. The testing has now been offered to my brother and I, and I haven't decided whether to have it yet or not. I'm not sure whether I want the knowledge that I definitely have the gene at this stage, since I don't think I'm ready to make a decision about what steps to take.
Spectra Spectra 7 years
I don't know if I'd do it or not. My boss had breast cancer and found out after her mastectomy that she has the BRCA1 gene, so she had the other one removed at the same time to be sure she got it all. She did say that she was glad she didn't get tested prior to the diagnosis because she didn't want to miss out on her life worrying about getting cancer in the future. My boobs are pretty little as it is...if they find cancer, they can take 'em and give me some nice big fake ones, lol.
wackdoodle wackdoodle 7 years
Being that my older sister had HAD breast cancer up until March of this year - and she very wisely insisted on a total mastecomtomy and was even pushing for removal of the "healthy" breast until her BCRA tests came back and showed no familail genetic reason for the breast cancer. I too would have the cancerous breast completely removed - no lumptecomy - and I would give serious consideration to removing the other breast for two reasons. To stive off the potential of cancer occurring in that breast and because now my sister faces at least 4 reconstruction/ augmentation surgeries to rebuild the missing breast and to to reduce and fix the remaining breast to be close in size, shape and placement as the other breast. Her oncologist and plastic surgeon have said it that would have been better if they had taken both breasts. My sister is happy to be rid of the diseased breast but she's left with an enormous "healthy" breast and the discomfort of wearing a bra for the sole remaining breast - one that won't aggravate that still healing mastectomy scar. Which BTW does not look at all freaky, bad or scary. As my sister has gotten more comfortable not hiding that she only has one breast absolute strangers (woman) have been brave enough to ask her if she has breast cancer (she says she did but she beat it - which is true) and some very brave and bold woman have asked my sister if they can see her mastectomy. Once they see it they honestly are relieved. So many women have no idea what a total mastectomy looks like or what it feels like. And my sister now proudly shows her battle wound off to women who ask and tells them that her life was worth fair more than her vanity or a freakin' boob. My feeling about my breasts are that they serve a purpose. If you have children and breast feed then they serve their purpose but if you do not and you attach your sexual identity to the fact that you have breasts you are potentially in for a rude awaking if you should ever develop breast cancer. Breasts do not make a woman a woman. Neither do ovaries or a uterus or cervix. What makes a woman a real woman (aside from chromosomes) is so very complex and shouldn't be tied to body parts that can kill you faster than you can get medical care.
Beaner Beaner 7 years
My good friend was diagnosed with BC at age 31. Because she was so young and the cancer was so aggressive, although only showing in one breast, she chose to remove them both to prevent issues with the cancer spreading. She's the bravest person I know for going through what she did, and I'm happy to say she's cancer-free. I think it made her feel better removing both so she wouldn't have to go through what she went through all over again.
Feesje Feesje 7 years
I'm with you, genipher85. I hate mine as they are, so I wouldn't mind.
Mariana48 Mariana48 7 years
my dad's wife had cancer in one breast but removed both, i would do the same
genipher85 genipher85 7 years
I hate mine as they are. I would remove both and then get the reconstructive surgery. I bet it would look better the second time around...
Merlin713 Merlin713 7 years
Between life and my breasts -- I pick life.
imLissy imLissy 7 years
eh, mine aren't all that great anyway. if it could save my life, I'd do it
classysassy classysassy 7 years
my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, and ended up removing both. i think i'd do the same.
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