Breast Cancer: Women Often Choose Mastectomy
Surgeon, Family Opinions Affect Patients' Decisions
Sept. 1, 2009 -- Thirty-eight-year-old mother of three Ellyn Davidson says
she knew within seconds of hearing her breast cancer diagnosis two years ago
that she wanted her breasts removed, even though she could have opted for
“My doctor called to tell me I had cancer at 9:30 on a Thursday night and
after the initial shock, I said, “I’m going to get rid of my breasts, then,'”
she tells WebMD. “He started to tell me about other things we could do, but I
think he could tell my mind was pretty much made up.”
Davidson knew the cure rate was about the same with the two surgeries for
her early-stage cancer, but she wanted to be as aggressive as possible in
treating her disease.
A new survey of women with breast cancer shows that Davidson’s reaction was
Many Women Chose Mastectomy
Women with early-stage breast cancer who said they were most involved in the
decision-making process were also the most likely to have a mastectomy.
Women who said they relied on the opinion of their surgeon or a family
member or friend to decide which surgery to have were more likely to choose
breast-conserving surgery with lumpectomy.
This was true for all racial and ethnic groups surveyed, including
African-American women and Latina women, says lead researcher Sarah T. Hawley,
PhD, MPH, of the University of Michigan Health System.
“There appears to be a subset of women who prefer mastectomy,” Hawley says.
“This choice is based on their attitudes about the two surgeries. We just want
to make sure those attitudes are based on accurate knowledge.”
A total of 1,651 women with early-stage breast cancer who were candidates
for mastectomy or breast-conserving surgery answered the survey. The women
lived in Los Angeles or Detroit and 49% were white, 27% were African-American,
and 24% were Latina.
About three-fourths of the surveyed women ended up having breast-conserving
surgery, Hawley says.
The responses also revealed that:
- Women who expressed the most concern about their cancer returning or the
effects of radiation with breast-conserving surgery were more likely to choose
mastectomy than women who expressed less concern about these things.
- Women who reported that body image and their spouse’s opinion were
important in their decision-making process were more likely to choose
- Most women reported having a family member or friend accompany them during
their surgical consultations.
The findings appear in this week’s issue of the Journal of the National
Support Is Critical During Decision-Making Process
Amy Rauch Neilson, 39, says she relied on family and friends after receiving
her breast cancer diagnosis in March 2006. Her husband, Don, and sister, Lisa,
accompanied Neilson every time she met with doctors to discuss her