About 70% of women who have both breasts removed following a breast cancer diagnosis do so despite a very low risk of facing cancer in the healthy breast, a study found.
The study found that 90% of women who underwent contralateral prophylactic mastectomy reported being very worried about the cancer recurring. But, the risk of breast cancer recurring in the other breast doesn't increase just because of the initial cancer, reported the study author, an associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan.
Results were announced by the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center and presented at an American Society of Clinical Oncology symposium.
The study authors looked at 1,446 women who had been treated for breast cancer and who had not had a recurrence. They found that 7% of women had surgery to remove both breasts. Among women who had a mastectomy, nearly 1 in 5 had a double mastectomy.
Women with two or more immediate family members with breast or ovarian cancer or with a positive genetic test for mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes may consider having both breasts removed, because they are at high risk of a new cancer developing in the other breast. But women without these indications are very unlikely to develop a second cancer in the healthy breast, the study found.
Since concerns about recurrence is one of the biggest factors driving the decision to have contralateral prophylactic mastectomy, better education is needed to educate women about whether the surgery would reduce the risk of recurrence.