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Some Women Have Regrets About Preventive Mastectomy


After diagnosis of the cancer, a discussion about preventive mastectomy of the other breast was initiated by the physician in the majority of cases (72%). The majority of women who initiated the discussion themselves had at least one first-degree relative with breast cancer.

Among all the women who chose to undergo preventive mastectomy, 18 (6%) had regrets. "Regrets tended to be less common in the women with whom the discussion of [preventive mastectomy] had been initiated by their physician than in the women who had initiated the discussion themselves," Montgomery and colleagues write.

Overall, the results indicate that there is a generally high acceptance rate of a procedure that is not as common today as it was years ago, when many of the women in the study had preventive mastectomies, Michael H. Torosian, MD, tells WebMD. He points out that patient acceptance of the procedure was 94%. "It's a somewhat debilitating operation for women to go through, so based on that, the acceptance rate reported in the article is rather high," says Torosian, who is attending surgeon and clinical director of breast-surgery research at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia.

Today it is uncommon to remove the other breast in women who have cancer in one breast, according to Torosian, and most physicians do not recommend or encourage it. "It is a very small percentage of women who would be undergoing something like this today," he says. With the availability of drugs such as tamoxifen that have been shown to significantly reduce the number of new cancers when taken as a precautionary measure, the number of preventive mastectomies is likely to decrease even further. Torosian says there will always be some women who will insist on a preventive mastectomy even after the risks and benefits have been explained, but they are in the minority.

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