More than half of women with cancer in one breast, but who suffered no gene mutations which increases their risk, want to remove their healthy breast also, in order to avoid a second cancer there, a small study has find.
Women with less cancer education and large worries about developing a new tumor were found to be the most likely to ask for the preventive removal of the healthy breast. The research shows that only 10 percent opted for the procedure after talking to their surgeons.
“There have been numerous public figures that have talked about their experiences with prophylactic surgery,” explained lead author Patricia A. Parker, a behavioral researcher at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, adding: “Prophylactic mastectomy does not reduce the possibility of recurrence from the original breast cancer”.
Parker and her colleagues from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, analyzed health data on 117 women before their first meeting with a surgeon at Anderson. All the patients had been diagnosed with an early form of cancer in one breast, while genetic screening revealed no high-risk gene mutations, such as the BRCA1, an inherited mutation which is known to raise the chances of developing breast cancer.
The survey that preceded the surgical consultation was aimed to improve the women’s knowledge and interest in the removal of the healthy breast.
The women completed questionnaires about how much they know about this procedure. The women gave marks on how likely they thought about this surgery. Surgeons also answered questions and rated how suitable the surgery would be.
On the first set of surveys, half of women were found to be moderately to extremely interested in prophylactic mastectomy. However, almost 80 percent of these women did not went through with the removal of their healthy breast during primary cancer surgery.
After the first visit, doctors reported that they had talked about this option moderately to extensively in a third of the visits. The subject of the surgery was not discussed at all in 45 percent of visits.
The women whose questionnaires revealed they had less cancer information and greater worry were more interested in prophylactic mastectomy, while those who were more worried were the ones who ultimately went on with the procedure.
After their visit, doctors and women agreed in most cases on whether or not the procedure would be a good idea, as reported in the Annals of Surgery.
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