A new U.S. study has suggested that young women with breast cancer often overestimate both their chance of developing cancer in the other breast and how much removal of that breast is likely to protect them.
The lead author of the study said evidence shows removing the cancer-free breast does not improve survival rates. This was after almost all in a survey of women diagnosed with cancer in one breast between ages 26 and 40 who chose to have a double mastectomy said a desire to extend their life was a very important part of the decision.
“For some women it might be the right decision, but you want to make sure they’re making the decision based on the correct information,” said Shoshana M. Rosenberg, from the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
Rosenberg said despite the fact that mastectomy does reduce the chance of a second cancer in the breast, the real concern is the risk of developing metastatic disease as a result of the original cancer. It was noted by Rosenberg that more and more women with breast cancer are having both breasts removed.
Survey participants “vastly overestimated their risk,” according to Rosenberg.
“Obviously, when they’re making this decision it’s a very anxious time, especially in younger women,” Rosenberg said.
“The complications are almost never life-threatening, but they can certainly compromise a patient’s health,” Dr. Todd Tuttle, a surgical oncologist at the University of Minnesota Medical Center’s Breast Center in Minneapolis, said.