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Study: Prophylactic mastectomies increasing

August 19, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Surgical procedures have gotten so advanced, that many breast cancer patients no longer face having to get a radical mastectomy. But now it appears some women are asking for that type of surgery -- even if they have cancer in only one breast. On Good Morning America, actress Christina Applegate made a shocking admission about how she dealt with breast cancer.

"I didn't want to go back to the doctors every four months for testing. I just wanted to be rid of this whole thing," said Applegate.

Following her diagnosis, Applegate underwent two lumpectomies. But just three weeks ago she decided to remove the entire breast that had cancer and the healthy one as well.

"So basically I had a prophelactic double mastectomy as people would say," said Applegate.

This might sound like a drastic decision few women would make, but a recent study shows the rate of prophylactic mastectomies increased 150 percent from 1998 to 2003.

"I looked at all my options after seeing doctor after doctor and finally decided to have the other side also removed, along with my ovaries," said Kim Read.

Kim Read, 32, made this decision about a year ago. She tested positive for BRCA2 which is one of two genetic mutations that raise a woman's risk for breast cancer recurrence.

"With my particular cancer it's about 60 percent that it would return," said Read.

Anxiety about recurrence is why many women choose prophylactic mastectomy. But the director of oncology at City of Hope says you don't remove a healthy organ without weighing all your options.

"I am not sure this is a trend that I would support until I see some long term statistical outcome five years from now. I would want to see what the affect of the double prophelactic double mastectomy would be in the general population," said Dr. George Somlo, City of Hope Medical Center.

Who's a possible candidate for a prophylactic mastectomy?

Women with a strong family history of breast cancer - meaning your mother, sister or daughter had breast cancer, or women who've tested positive for BRCA gene mutations, and women who've had breast cancer in one breast - may all be likely candidates.

 

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