A new study shows that women diagnosed with cancer in one breast often opt to undergo a contralateral prophylactic mastectomy (CPM), even though they may not have a significant risk of developing cancer in the other breast.
The women who had the more extensive surgery were more likely to have had a diagnostic MRI, to be white, to be highly educated, and to have a strong family history of ovarian or breast cancer, though not necessarily a positive genetic test. These women also reported a greater worry about recurrence.
A new study published in the JAMA Surgery journal shows that 70 percent of women who decide to get a contralateral prophylactic mastectomy—that is, removing both a cancerous and healthy breast simultaneously—don’t actually need to, since the risk for contracting the disease again is exceedingly low (just 3 percent). Interestingly, researchers also found in their survey of more than 1,400 women, that those with higher educations were more likely to opt for the extensive, preventative surgery.
So though rates of double mastectomies have more than quintupled over the past 15 years, doctors now advise at-risk patients to take pause. “They want to choose the surgical procedure that they think gives them the lowest possibility of recurrence and the greatest chance of surviving their breast cancer,” Dr. Tari King, deputy chief and director of research for the breast surgical service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, told CBS News. “But…when we tell them that removing their normal breast won’t make them live longer and there is no survival benefit, there’s a disconnect. It’s not always guaranteed that the choice you make to remove both breasts is really going to make you feel as good as you think it might at the time that you’re making that decision.”
It’s a reminder that health trends are not fashion trends—and a decision like this is certainly not one-size-fits-all.