Double mastectomy may not increase chance of survival

Denise Dador Image
Thursday, September 4, 2014
Research suggests double mastectomies may not increase chance of survival
EMBED <>More Videos

As the use of double mastectomies increase, researchers find that the procedure may not increase breast cancer patients' chances of survival.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Peace of mind is the No. 1 reason many breast cancer patients choose double mastectomies.

According to Scarlett L. Gomez, a research scientist at the Cancer Prevention Institute of California, the use of double mastectomies has steadily increased over time from 1988 to 2011.

Researchers wanted to find out if this radical treatment really did help improve chances of survival so they looked at the medical records of 190,000 California women with early stage cancer diagnosed in just one breast. The researchers also checked to see if those women underwent a single mastectomy, a double mastectomy or breast conserving surgery with radiation.

"We were able to study the experiences of women from many different racial, ethnic groups [and] socioeconomic backgrounds," Gomez said.

In a report provided by the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that removing both breasts did not appear any more effective than a lumpectomy with radiation. Ten-year survival rates were nearly identical - about 82 percent - for women who had lumpectomies to remove the tumor plus radiation, and for those who had double mastectomies.

"Women who had double mastectomy did not seem to have any better survival than women who had the other two surgical procedures," said Allison W. Kurian, an assistant professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Researchers also found removing just the cancerous breast was the least effective.

"The women who had this single mastectomy did have worse survival than the other groups of women," Kurian said.

Experts say the results aren't enough to suggest fewer double mastectomies. But since most women doing the single breast removals were minority women with less money and education, researchers say more needs to be done to make sure all women get the information they need.

"We really need to improve on our strategies for communicating this kind of information to a patient who is making choices about how to treat her early breast cancer," Kurian said.