Preventative Mastectomy Rates Rise in the U.S.

More women are choosing to have healthy breast tissue removed to prevent the likelihood of breast cancer. That’s the finding of a recent study into the use of preventative mastectomies in the United States. That rate, in fact, has increased dramatically over the past decade.

Preventative mastectomies are generally performed when a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer in a single breast. Rather than run the risk of cancer’s return in the healthy breast, women who choose this path have both removed. The practice has witnessed an uptick in recent years following more prevalent use of genetic testing and also the highly publicized decision of actress Angelina Jolie to undergo prophylactic procedures.

A recent study shed light on the rise in preventative surgical procedures. Researchers looked at records related to nearly 500,000 women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer in one breast. Of those patients, nearly 60 percent opted for breast-conserving surgery. About a third chose to only have the affected breast removed. Seven percent also had their healthy breast removed, researchers found. Overall, the rise in preventative mastectomies was calculated to have climbed from just under 4 percent in 2002 to nearly 12 percent by 2012.

While preventative mastectomies can prove important in some cases, doctors warn that the move is not always necessary. In addition, this type of invasive surgery can pose risks for women who choose to walk this path. Double mastectomies increase infection and complication risks, making it troubling for some medical professionals when women request this action if it is not clinically necessary.

An estimated 246,000 American women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. Some 40,000 women die from the disease. Women who are diagnosed with breast cancer are strongly urged to discuss all treatment options with their healthcare providers. Preventative mastectomies can prove lifesaving in some cases, but they are not always strictly needed. It is best to carefully weigh the risks and potential benefits as they related to a specific woman’s case and likelihood for cancer’s return.

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