A recent study shows that one in every six women diagnosed with breast cancer chose to have a double mastectomy. The results are worrying because many of the subjects do not seem to be properly informed regarding the risks and benefits of the radical procedure.
A Difficult Choice
In recent years, health specialists have noticed an increasing tendency among women diagnosed with breast cancer to have both their breasts removed.
In order to understand the reasons behind choosing such a radical procedure, which involves risks, scientists sent a survey to 3,631 breast cancer patients and received around 2,400 answers that could be used for the study. The results were revealing.
Overall, 44 percent of all the women diagnosed with cancer in one breast considered having the other one removed surgically as well. One in six actually underwent the procedure. When seeing such numbers, one may expect that the patients were fully informed about such a massive procedure.
In this case, the revelations were surprising. Only 38 percent of the women seemed to be aware that the procedure did not help all women. What’s more worrying is that 47 percent of the women received no recommendation whatsoever regarding the procedure.
When To Have A Double Mastectomy
Specialists recommend removing both breasts only in certain cases when women are exposed to a serious risk due to having particular gene mutations, like BRCA 1 or BRCA 2. In these cases, cancer could develop in both breasts and threaten one’s life. However, for women with other types of breast cancer, the removal of the healthy breast does not affect their chances of survival.
In fact, some claim that patients choose the procedure after hearing about the cases of stars like Angelina Jolie, who underwent the procedure and was very vocal about her choice. The main motive invoked for choosing the procedure is peace of mind. Many doctors, like Steven J. Katz, acknowledge the amount of stress these women are subjected to, as well as their desire to do everything in their power to fight the spread of the disease.
“At a time when emotions are running high, it’s not surprising that newly diagnosed breast cancer patients might find it difficult to absorb this complex information. It seems logical that more aggressive surgery should be better at fighting disease–but that’s not how breast cancer works. It’s a real communication challenge,” noted Katz.
Considering the results of the study, doctors in charge of breast cancer patients are encouraged to explain to them the risks and benefits of the procedure. Thus, even if they do decide to undergo the procedure, they will have done so in an informed manner.
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