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Rates of Preventive Mastectomy Doubled in a Decade, and Fear Is a Factor

TUESDAY, Oct. 18, 2016 -- Fear of cancer recurrence seems to be a primary reason why breast cancer patients choose to have their cancer-free breast removed at the same time as their affected breast, a new study finds.

The rate of this type of surgery -- called contralateral prophylactic mastectomy (CPM) -- doubled in the United States in the past 10 years. Recent data suggest that up to 25 percent of newly diagnosed breast cancer patients undergo this procedure, the study authors noted.

The researchers wanted to find out why so many patients decide to have the surgery. They looked at breast cancer patient postings in an online health community.

Along with fear of cancer recurrence, many women believe that a double mastectomy is the best treatment for breast cancer, the investigators found.

Some patients had already had a breast cancer recurrence and decided on preventive mastectomy in an effort to stop the cancer from returning for good. Others said plastic surgeons said CPM would help lead to better breast reconstruction surgery outcomes, the study findings showed.

The study is to be presented Tuesday at a meeting of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) in Washington, D.C.

"Now we have a better understanding of what beliefs some patients hold, which is that CPM is the best treatment for breast cancer. We also were able to study what patients are saying to each other about CPM," said study lead author Dr. Rebecca Marmor, a general surgery resident at the University of California, San Diego.

"Now that we have a sense of what they're saying to each other, we want to work to correct their misconceptions," Marmor said in an ACS news release.

Research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

In May 2013, actress Angelina Jolie revealed that she had undergone preventive double mastectomy when she found out she had a substantially increased risk of developing cancer due to her genes.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more on breast cancer.

Posted: October 2016


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