By Vera Viner
New research suggests that women who have double mastectomies – the removal of both breasts – do not have higher survival rates than women who only have the tumor itself removed through a lumpectomy. CBS News explains that, at times, these more drastic surgeries may be unnecessary.
About 200,000 women from California were followed in the study and ten-year survival rates were compared. Women who had a lumpectomy and radiation had a nearly identical survival rate at about 82 percent when compared to women who chose a double mastectomy. The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Between 1998 and 2011, the number of women choosing double mastectomies actually rose by 12 percent. Women under 40 years of age especially showed higher interest in the more drastic surgical removal of both breasts.
If women have high genetic risk of breast cancer, undergoing a double mastectomy could better their survival rates from the disease. Otherwise, it does not have the same effects. Greater interest in mastectomies also grew after Angelina Jolie announced she had undergone the procedure due to her family history and BRCA gene mutations.
However, less than 10 percent of breast cancers are linked to BRCA mutations. While it may help women who have family history of the disease to find out their BRCA gene status, choosing mastectomies without fully understanding their risk is unwise. Often patients are fearful of the cancer returning, which is why many prefer mastectomies. However, this procedure is no more effective than a lumpectomy with radiation.
It is important to let patients take time to understand their cancer diagnosis and learn about all treatment options along with risks and benefits before deciding on any type of surgery. Patients that were diagnosed with breast cancer should spend more time deciding on the best treatment for them, depending on risk factors.
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