When faced with breast cancer, does it really have to be all or nothing?

Thousands of women in New York are choosing to undergo prophylactic mastectomies, the removal of a noncancerous breast, hoping to reduce the chances of developing breast cancer. Dr. Edge and his colleagues from the New York State Department of Health discovered this trend in New York women when faced with breast cancer by examining the frequency of prophylactic mastectomies in New York State between 1995 and 2005. Dr. Edge analyzed hospital discharge data combined with data from the state cancer registry for 6,275 females in New York who underwent prophylactic mastectomies. The results showed that eighty-one percent of the women had been diagnosed with cancer in one breast, while 19 percent had no personal history of breast cancer.

Dr. Edge, in an article released by roswellpark.org on September 28, 2009 noted that women with breast cancer should have careful counseling regarding benefits and risks before choosing to get a prophylactic mastectomy of the other breast. Dr. Edge’s comments on the study, “this data demonstrate that prophylactic mastectomy is an uncommon procedure that is performed most commonly on women with a personal history of breast cancer. Although the total number of prophylactic mastectomies performed per year was small, it appears that the use of the surgery is increasing,”

Women should be aware that the removal of a healthy breast when diagnosed with cancer in the other one has not been proven to reduce breast cancer as the article states, “there is little information available on the prevalence of prophylactic mastectomies for preventing breast cancer among high-risk women or on the prevalence of the surgery to prevent tumors in the healthy breast among women whose cancer is limited to one breast.”

As a woman breast cancer is a fear I can say we all grow up with and the decisions that come after being diagnosed with breast cancer, like whether to get a lumpectomy (the removal of a tumor) or a mastectomy are harder than anyone not having gone through it can ever image. Fear shouldn’t be the emotion driven behind life changing decisions like whether or not to have a healthy breast removed, when reconstruction is still not perfect. Make sure to talk to your doctor and work out what’s best for your future as a woman.



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