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Mastectomy to Prevent Cancer Reduces Women's Worries

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"Ultimately, many of these women would not have developed breast cancer," Smith tells WebMD. "The point to keep in mind is we are not able to truly predict who will get breast cancer and who will not."

Before making such a big decision, women should talk to a therapist, Nadine Kaslow, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, tells WebMD. "Obviously this is an incredible psychological and medical decision, and all factors have to be weighed."

When considering reconstructive surgery, she advises women to get a clear idea of what they can expect. "Ask for pictures. Get an idea of what this surgeon does. You want to be realistic about this. I also encourage women to get pictures of the breasts immediately post-op, so they can see what it looks. Swelling goes down tremendously after the first few days."

And discuss everything with your spouse or significant other, she advises. "They need to look at the pictures, too, and go to appointments with the surgeon. They're part of decision, part of helping you heal," she says.

Talking with a therapist before the surgery can also help. "Sometimes women don't think they have time for it, but I'd recommend seeing a psychologist. We can help get people past their body image concerns," Kaslow says. "You won't look the same, but you can learn to accept what you do look like."

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