Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Breast Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Breast Removal Slashes Risk of Cancer in High-Risk Women


Hartmann says there are other options for these women such as close follow-up and medication. She adds that surgery is not the choice most women make. A study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore found that when 160 women with family histories of breast cancer were asked about prophylactic mastectomy "two-thirds of them said they wanted to discuss it, but only 14 or 10% went on to have the surgery. That's about the rate that we see."

She says, however, that the surgery remains controversial. "Opponents argue that, as a solution, it is too extreme," Hartmann says. Proponents of the surgery, on the other hand, say, "if it reduces risk, where is the question?" She says that there are many factors that influence a woman's decision to chose the surgery but the strongest is "family. If a woman has a family, has children, she is more anxious to take some action that assures her she will be there for her family."

Hartmann says that almost all women undergoing the procedure opt to have reconstructive surgery involving breast implants at the same time.

Although Hartmann says she doesn't know the cost of preventive mastectomy, she says the women are typically hospitalized for five days. She says, too, that insurance companies had originally balked at paying for the procedure, claiming it was an unproven or experimental procedure. With the publication of the earlier study from the Mayo Clinic that found prophylactic mastectomy yielded a 90% reduction in risk for women with strong family histories, insurers are now agreeing to pay for the procedure, she says. "The insurers recognize that it is expensive, but not as expensive as treatment for breast cancer."

1 | 2

Today on WebMD

Breast Cancer Overview
From self-exams and biopsies to reconstruction, we’ve got you covered.
Dealing with breast cancer
Get answers to your questions.
woman having mammogram
Experts don’t agree on all fronts, but you can be your own advocate.
woman undergoing breast cancer test
Many women worry. But the truth? Most abnormalities aren’t breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Treatments Improving
Resolved To Quit Smoking
Woman getting mammogram
Screening Tests for Women
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
serious woman
what is your cancer risk
10 Ways to Revitalize Slideshow