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Preventive Double Mastectomy: FAQ

4. How long is the recovery time?

About a month, on average, Tuttle says.

5. Can I start breast reconstruction at the same time?

Yes. Many women do that. The surgeries take about 5-6 hours when done together, Tuttle says.

6. What are the side effects?

Like any surgery, there is risk. You may need more operations if you get an infection or if the tissue doesn't heal, Tuttle says.

Some women may have emotional side effects linked to their body image. For others, the peace of mind they get from having the surgery outweighs changes in their body.

It comes down to how you feel about risk, Hudis says.

Brenda Nelson, of Cloquet, Minn., had a double mastectomy and reconstruction surgeries in early 2013. Nelson has the BRCA1 gene mutation, her mother has had ovarian cancer, and she also has a family history of breast cancer.

“I’m very happy with my decision. It seemed inevitable that I would get cancer, and now my odds are much better,” Nelson says. Still, she respects other women's choices.

“[It was] such a personal decision. I wouldn’t tell anyone to or not to."

7. Are there women who should not get this surgery for medical reasons?

Yes. The surgery isn't recommended if you have other medical problems such as severe heart disease, lung disease, or kidney problems, Tuttle says.

8. Does insurance cover preventive mastectomy?

It varies from state to state. Federal law doesn't require it. 

Insurance companies usually pay for the surgery if your doctor says it's needed, and for breast reconstruction, too.

Talk with your insurance company and your doctor so you know what to expect.

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Reviewed on September 05, 2013

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