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Double Mastectomy Doesn't Improve Survival: Study

But many more women in U.S. are choosing the radical procedure

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Oftentimes, survival rates are just one of many factors a woman considers when weighing surgical treatment for breast cancer, she said. A common reason for double mastectomy is fear of cancer recurrence, even though the fear usually exceeds the estimated risk, she said.

For some women, aesthetics are a key consideration, the researchers wrote. Some newer reconstruction techniques produce better breast symmetry if both are reconstructed at the same time.

Being informed is essential, said Dr. Lisa Newman, director of the Breast Care Center at the University of Michigan, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study. "Overall, I think the important message [from this study] for our breast cancer patients is there is no overwhelming survival advantage," she said.

As long as women understand the pros and cons of the procedures, "it really does become a very personal choice," she added.

Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society, agreed. Doctors need to communicate these study findings to their patients who are deciding about surgical treatment of their breast cancer, he said.

Lichtenfeld, who had no part in the study, advises women to take time after their diagnosis to learn about the pros and cons of each approach.

No matter which option she chooses, a woman's decision about surgical treatment needs to be respected, Lichtenfeld said. "If a woman is educated [about her options] and makes a decision, that is her decision."

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