Double Mastectomy: How Necessary Is the Procedure?

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    NEWSLETTERS

    An increasingly popular choice by woman to have a double mastectomy to either prevent or treat localized breast cancer isn’t always a necessary choice, according to a new study. Dr. Bruce Hensel reports for the NBC4 News at 5 on Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014.

    More women are choosing to opt for a double mastectomy to prevent or treat localized breast cancer, but a new report suggests that may not be the best option for all women.

    Angelina Jolie very publicly opted for a double mastectomy after learning she had the breast cancer gene.

    While the procedure is a courageous decision that helps peace of mind, experts along with a Journal of the American Medical Association report say the surgery may not prolong life or be necessary.

    "What we don't know is what happens to those women afterward and whether they gain any benefit in terms of survival," said Dr. Allison W. Kurian of Stanford, who authored the study.

    Kurian and Dr. Scarlett Gomez of the Cancer Prevention Institute of California studied 18,900 women diagnosed with breast cancer, with early-stage cancer diagnosed in one breast. They compared results for a double mastectomy, single mastectomy and local tumor removal with radiation.

    "Women who had a double mastectomy did not seem to have any better survival than women who had the other two surgical procedures," Gomez said.

    A separate study showed that women who have the breast cancer genes but did not yet have cancer would live as long and as well as those who had double mastectomies -- if they got early and frequent mammograms to detect and cure the cancer early.

    Dr Bruce's Advice: Women who have the cancer gene but no cancer should consider early screening tests. Those who get cancer need to weigh the risks and benefits of double mastectomies versus local treatment of the tumor. In some cases, local treatment may be better. Cancer treatment is not "one size fits all." Get all the information and make your individual decision.