More U.S. Women Choosing to Have Healthy Breasts Removed

Patients increasingly opt to have the healthy breast removed, despite limited benefit
Patients increasingly opt to have the healthy breast removed, despite limited benefit

HealthDay News — The number of U.S. breast cancer patients choosing to have a healthy breast removed has tripled in the past decade, even though this aggressive measure offers no significant survival benefits for women with cancer in 1 breast, according to a study published online March 8 in the Annals of Surgery.

Mehra Golshan, MD, chair of surgical oncology at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, and colleagues analyzed data from 496,488 women who were diagnosed with stage I, II, or III cancer in one breast and followed for more than eight years. Of those patients, 59.6% overall had breast-conserving surgery, one-third (33.4 percent) had the diseased breast removed, and 7.0% had their healthy breast removed as well.

Rates of contralateral prophylactic mastectomy increased from 3.9% in 2002 to 12.7% in 2012. But women who had their unaffected breast removed did not have significantly higher survival rates than those who had breast-conserving surgery, the researchers found. White patients were the most likely to have the healthy breast removed.

"Understanding why women choose to undergo contralateral prophylactic mastectomy may create an opportunity for health care providers to optimally counsel women about surgical options, address anxieties, discuss individual preferences, and ensure peace of mind related to a patient's surgical choice," Golshan said in a hospital news release.

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