Unnecessary Mastectomies Following Breast Cancer Diagnoses?

new york magazineI spoke the other day to Melissa Dahl, a writer for New York Magazine. She wrote a really nice piece on what medical professionals call “contralateral prophylactic mastectomy” – when a woman with breast cancer chooses not only to remove the affected breast, but also the unaffected breast in order to reduce the chance of a subsequent cancer. There’s no evidence that this practice reduces breast cancer related mortality. And yet the practice is growing. Here is the beginning of her wonderful essay:

It’s potentially the biggest health headline of the week: a new study shows that more women who have developed cancer in one breast are opting for a preventive double mastectomy—even if they’re not at a higher risk for getting the disease in the second breast, and even if that means going against their doctor’s advice. 

Much of the coverage of the study, published Wednesday in JAMA Surgery, took on a baffled tone, quoting medical professionals who couldn’t imagine a reason beyond anxiety to explain why patients would request an invasive procedure they didn’t technically need—and one that carries medical risks of its own. But even if this decision doesn’t make a lot of medical sense, decades of behavioral science research can offer clues as to why so many women are making it… (Read more at New York Magazine)

 

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