Double Mastectomies May Not Be Right for Every Woman With Breast Cancer

breast cancer survivorAfter Angelina Jolie revealed to the world that she had gotten a preventative double mastectomy after learning that she had tested positive for the BRCA1 gene, interest in similar measures we can all take against the disease skyrocketed. One organization in the U.K. even estimated a four-fold surge in women researching preventative surgery since Angelina's announcement. But a new breast cancer study, presented yesterday at the 2013 Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons, reiterates what many doctors have been saying in the wake of that trend: Not every woman should be following in Angelina's footsteps. Or even going for a double mastectomy once they've been diagnosed with cancer.

The gist: Women with early-stage breast cancer in one breast are increasingly opting for double mastectomies. But the study says having the healthy breast removed may be pointless, because it may have no bearing on the woman's survival rate.


The stuy notes that women often fear that having cancer in one breast will mean they have an increased risk of contracting cancer in the other. But researchers found that having a double mastectomy didn't really have a survival benefit unless the woman tested positive for one of the BRCA mutations.

Definitely eyebrow-raising, don't you think? At the very least, it underlines the necessity for women to get as much information as they can about their genetic risk before being frightened into having an aggressive surgery with a long recovery period and potentially more complications than if they were to only have the affected breast removed.

To be fair, this is far from the be all and end all, final word. More research will have to be done, and every case is unique. But perhaps this study will pave the way for a different way of thinking about treating early stage breast cancer that could potentially save a lot of women a LOT of stress.

What do you think about this study?


Image via Jim Bourg/Corbis

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