Study: Anxiety Rules Over Necessity, As More Women With Breast Cancer Choose to Remove Healthy Breast

One in three breast cancer patients under age 45 removed the healthy breast along with the breast affected by cancer in 2012, a sharp increase from the one in 10 younger women with breast cancer who had double mastectomies eight years earlier, says new study published in JAMA Network, as reported in the New York Times.

Women often remove the healthy breast so they don’t have to worry about developing another cancer, even though there is no evidence that removing the healthy breast extends lives.

Both the American Board of Internal Medicine and the American Society of Breast Surgeons recommend against the practice, labeled prophylactic mastectomy, unless a woman is at unusually high risk for a new cancer because of a condition like increased genetic risk, such as a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes.

“This study again underscores the fact that women are making this decision out of anxiety rather than medical necessity,” said Dr. E. Shelley Hwang, the chief of breast surgery at Duke Cancer Institute, who was not involved in the study but has studied patients’ quality of life after double mastectomies.

To learn more read the study at JAMA Network, or the report in the New York Times.

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