Preventive Double Mastectomy

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Story Updated: Jul 18, 2014

Over the past decade, women diagnosed with breast cancer in just one breast have increasingly opted to have both breasts removed. The goals: to reduce anxiety, minimize future risk, and prolong life. But new research suggests that when it comes to extending life expectancy the decision to remove a healthy breast may not pay off in a significant way.

In the Journal of the National Cancer Institute a study team analyzed a complex computer simulation that predicted survival rates among patients undergoing a preemptive double mastectomy. Excluding patients with high-risk BRCA mutations the simulation focused on young and middle-aged patients with both stage I and stage II cancer. Ultimately, the team concluded that when a healthy breast was removed, the chances of living another 20 years increased by less than 1%.

The authors acknowledged that some women base their decision on a wide range of psychological and cosmetic considerations. But they cautioned that for those for whom survival is the main issue the cost of the procedure might outweigh the benefit.

I'm Dr. Cindy Haines of HealthDay TV with news from today that can lead to healthy tomorrows.

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