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Double Mastectomy Rates Rising

April 25, 2009

Recent medical studies have shown a significant rise in the number of women who choose to have both breasts surgically removed after being diagnosed with cancer in only one breast.

According to Dr. Todd Tuttle of the University of Minnesota, between 1998 and 2005, the number of women opting for double breast removal ““ or “contralateral prophylactic mastectomy” in medical parlance ““ increased by some 188 percent in cases of early-detected breast cancer.

An explanation as to why ever more women are opting for this somewhat drastic procedure remains something of a mystery.

“The 10-year survival rate for women with DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) is 98 percent to 99 percent,” explained Dr. Tuttle in a statement issued by the university.  “Therefore, removal of the normal contralateral breast will not improve the excellent survival rates for this group of women.  Nevertheless, many women, particularly young women, are choosing to have both breasts removed.”

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, looked at more than 51,000 women who had been diagnosed with one-sided DCIS.   Of these patients, 2072 of them decided to undergo a complete breast removal surgery to treat their cancer, the report indicated.

The overall rate of contralateral mastectomies climbed from 2.1 to 5.2 percent among all surgically treated patients between 1998 and 2005.  Among those women who underwent mastectomies, the number that chose to have a both breasts removed as opposed to just the cancerous one increased by 188 percent.

Authors of the study concluded that additional research is “critically needed” to identify and better understand all the factors influencing the decision-making processes of women choosing to have a double mastectomy.

According to the National Cancer Institute, women in the United States have the highest incidence rates of breast cancer of any country in the world, with 1 out of every 8 women developing the disease at some point in their life.  Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among women and the second deadliest, behind lung cancer.

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