More Women Choose to Remove Noncancerous Breasts
Study: Prophylactic Mastectomy Increasing as Acceptance of Procedure Grows
WebMD News Archive
Prophylactic Mastectomy: No Improvement in Survival Rate
Despite dramatically lowering chances of future breast cancers from
developing, prophylactic breast removal has not been shown to cut down a
woman’s chances of dying from breast cancer – a distinction that study author
Stephen B. Edge, MD, FACS makes to caution patients against choosing the
surgery without careful consideration.
“Unfortunately, the cold hard fact is that the threat to their life comes
from the cancer that they already have,” says Edge, who heads the department of
breast surgery at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo. He remarks that he
is heartened to find it still relatively uncommon for women with no past breast
cancers to undergo double mastectomies, in light of recent media coverage of
celebrities who choose the dramatic procedure.
Women who are considering removing a healthy breast should weigh the pros
and cons with the help of counseling in a breast cancer program that includes
specialists in genetics, advises Edge. “People usually make good
decisions when they’re well-informed,” he says.
Both Simmons and Edge agree that the best candidate for prophylactic removal
of both breasts is a BRCA-positive woman who also has a strong family history
of the disease, meaning she has several first- and second-degree relatives who
were diagnosed at a young age.
The current study, published in the Sept. 28 online edition of the journal
Cancer, used cancer data collected from New York state health
records. The results showed that women who underwent double mastectomy to
protect against further cancer development were more likely to be younger,
white, and carry private health insurance than other breast cancer
Edge attributes the overall drop in mastectomy rates seen over the past two
decades in the study to the high success rate of surgical lump removal -- a
less invasive, relatively conservative approach compared to extracting the
entire breast. He says that lumpectomy yields a survival rate similar to