Double Mastectomy: Peace of Mind

Wednesday, November 28, 2012 - 11:56am

Study finds 70% of women who undergo surgery do so for peace of mind.

The number of women undergoing a double mastectomy has nearly tripled since the mid-nineties, despite the fact cases of cancer in both breasts have gone down thanks to new drugs.

Experts say peace of mind is often playing a stronger role in a woman's surgical decisions than her diagnosis.

E! News host Giuliana Rancic publicly battled early stage breast cancer late last year, announcing her treatment decision on The Today Show.

Doctors say her type of breast cancer is often treated successfully with breast-conserving surgery, radiation and hormone therapy.

But like a growing number of women, Rancic chose to have both breasts removed.

"At the end, all it came down to was choosing to live, and not looking over my shoulder for the rest of my life," said Rancic.

A new study out of the University of Michigan suggests seventy percent of double mastectomy patients elect to have both breasts removed despite facing a low risk for developing cancer in the healthy breast.

"We generally estimate the risk for a new cancer in the other side to be about 1% per year," said Dr. Halle Moore of the Cleveland Clinic.

Women who are candidates for double mastectomy include those with two or more immediate family members with the disease, or those who test positive for the breast cancer genes.

Everyone else may be facing risks from a surgery that may not be necessary.

"The best that we can do is try to inform the patient and try to put their risk into numbers the best that we can and try to give them some perspective," said Moore.

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