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Breast Cancer: Women Often Choose Mastectomy

Surgeon, Family Opinions Affect Patients' Decisions

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 treatment.

“They just kept coming, and their support meant everything,” she says. “Even if you think you’re strong enough to do it yourself, you really need support.”

Like Davidson, Neilson opted for a double mastectomy almost immediately because of her young age, a family history of the disease, and a strong suspicion that she had the BRCA1 gene that by some estimates carries up to an 80% lifetime risk for developing breast cancer.

Neilson’s maternal grandmother died of breast cancer when she was 46 and her mother died of the disease at age 53. In 1985, her older sister, Julie, was treated for cancer in one breast at age 26. Two years later, she was treated again when cancer was found in the other breast.

Neilson’s suspicions were confirmed soon after her double mastectomy was performed. Davidson also found out after her surgery that she carried the BRCA mutation.

Both women say they have no regrets about choosing mastectomy over breast conservation.

“The awesome thing -- if you can call anything about having breast cancer awesome -- is that breast reconstruction is just amazing these days,” Neilson says. “Right after the surgeon took my breasts, the plastic surgeon came in and began the reconstruction process. So when I woke up after surgery and looked down I already had some cleavage.”

Davidson says her reconstructed breasts are actually an improvement over the ones nature gave her.

“I was pretty small chested and now I have the perkiest breasts on the block,” she says.

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