A huge study done in America has shown that women with breast cancer, who opt for a double mastectomy, do not reduce their risk of survival.
There has been an increase in the number of women who choose to have both breasts remove to prevent the recurrence of the cancer, but an assessment of 190000 patients discovered that their chances of survival were no higher than those who choose to only have the tumours removed.
Researchers stated that a double mastectomy may still be the best choice for those with rare genetic mutations which increase their risk of recurrent breast cancer.
The Californian study found that the numbers of patients opting for double mastectomies has increased from 2% during 1998 to 12.3% during 2011. It was more likely for younger, wealthier females to choose the procedure. By 2011, one third of women under the age of 40 were choosing double mastectomies.
The study’s lead scientist, Dr Allison Kurian, from Stanford University, said that the study has revealed that the average breast cancer patient who opts for a bilateral mastectomy will not have a higher chance of survival than the average patient who opts for a lumpectomy with radiation. She added that a mastectomy is a major surgical procedure which requires extended recovery time, as well as breast reconstruction, whereas a lumpectomy is a less invasive method with shorter recovery time.
The lack of evidence of survival benefit has made it quite rare for women to opt for a double mastectomy in the UK. According to Eluned Hughes, the head of public health at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, double mastectomies are not offered to females with breast cancer as a routine procedure. It will only be offered if they have a family history of cancer or a high risk that it would recur. Aside from these groups there has been no evidence that a bilateral mastectomy would benefit the patient.
However, it may be recommended for those who have cancer in both breasts, or who have an inherited mutation of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes which increase the risk of cancer and the return of cancer.
Many celebrities have opted to have double mastectomies, most notably Angelina Jolie who underwent a preventative double mastectomy. She was prompted to do this after learning that she had an 87% chance of developing the cancer due to a faulty BRCA1 gene. This procedure resulted in her breast cancer risk being reduced to 5%.
Image Credit: Tim Pierce