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Study: Most Breast Cancer Patients Who Have Double Mastectomy Don’t Need It

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Researchers found 70 percent of women who had both breasts removed were not at an elevated risk for cancer.(Credit: Thinkstock)

Researchers found 70 percent of women who had both breasts removed were not at an elevated risk for cancer.(Credit: Thinkstock)

ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta) – According to a recent study, most women with breast cancer that get a double mastectomy do not need it.

Researchers analyzed data from 1,447 women that had been treated for breast cancer. They found that 8 percent, or 106 women, had both their breasts affected and removed. About 70 percent of the women who had both breasts removed were not at an elevated risk.

“In these women, the probability of a second cancer causing them to have a health problem is remote, Dr. Steven Katz, a professor of medicine and health management and policy at the University of Michigan, and a researcher in the study, told LiveScience. “We are willing to remove the unaffected breast of a woman with cancer, but we would be unwilling to do so in a woman who didn’t have cancer, even though in both cases they yield the same outcome, which is no benefit in terms of affecting the woman’s chance of dying from breast cancer.”

About three-quarters of the participants in the study reported that they were worried their cancer would reoccur. Those who were worried were more likely to have both breasts removed.

“There’s a high association between your concerns about and fear of reoccurrence, and getting the most extensive surgery,” Katz said.

Only 136 women who participated in the study were at high risk for breast cancer, and for them, having both breasts removed would lower the risk of dying from breast cancer. Only 24 percent of them got a double mastectomy.

“Not only should pros and cons of different treatment options be communicated, but there needs to be consideration of the patient’s personal circumstances and perceptions, all the while addressing anxiety and concerns about breast cancer recurrence and new primary disease,” Dr. Ann Partridge and Shoshanna Rosenberg of Harvard University wrote in an editorial accompanying the study.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend getting regular mammograms, which can lower the risk of dying from breast cancer. The CDC suggests that women between the ages of 50 and 74 should have a screening mammogram every two years.

The study was published in the journal JAMA Surgery.

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