Double Mastectomy Does Not Lower Death Rate for Unilateral Breast Cancer

Posted by Admin on September 5, 2015
Undergoing a double mastectomy for early-stage breast cancer is not linked to a reduction in mortality risk when compared to breast-conserving therapy plus radiation. However, the number of women undergoing the procedure continues to rise. This is the result of new research published in JAMA. This is not the first study to question the advantages of double mastectomy for breast cancer patients.

For the study, investigators set out to determine the rate of breast cancer patients undergoing a double mastectomy and further investigate whether the procedure offers advantages when compared to other treatments.

The team examined data from the population-based California Cancer Registry, identifying nearly 190,000 women who were diagnosed with early-stage unilateral breast cancer between the years of 1998 and 2011.

The researchers discovered that the rate of double mastectomy among these women rose from 2% in 1998 to 12.3% in 2011, representing a jump of 14.3% each year. The largest jump was observed among women aged 40 and under; the rate of bilateral mastectomy in this population rose from 3.6% in 1998 to 33% in 2011, a rise of 17.6% each year. However, the overall rate of unilateral mastectomy - the removal of one -breast declined during this same period.

The group most likely to undergo a double mastectomy was non-Hispanic white women, as were women who received care at a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center and those with private medical insurance. Unilateral mastectomy was most common among women receiving Medicaid and racial/ethnic minorities.

The study authors conclude that their findings come at time of increasing concern about overtreatment. They claim that the risk-benefit ratio of double mastectomy should lead to careful consideration and brings up larger questions of how physicians and society should respond to a patient's preference to undergo a permanent, costly intervention of dubious effectiveness. They hope that the results will inform decision-making regarding surgical treatment of breast cancer.


Written by Stuart Diamond,

Empowered Doctor Editor-In-Chief


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