Why Women May Benefit From Having a Mastectomy

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(Newswire.net — June 16, 2016) — Having a mastectomy is a drastic decision, whether it’s performed on one or both breasts. But for many women with breast cancer, and even women without cancer, as we’ll investigate, mastectomies are becoming more popular than alternative methods. Since 2003, the rate of women who have chosen double mastectomies over breast conserving lumpectomies or unilateral mastectomy has nearly tripled.

Women who have early-stage breast cancer that has not yet spread to the lymph nodes have the option to have a mastectomy or simply remove the tumor. You might think that the severity of mastectomy would make it less popular than simply removing the cancerous tumor, but this is no longer the case. Advancements in breast reconstruction and better compensation from insurance companies have helped make mastectomy more popular in recent years.

Even though it is relatively rare for a woman to develop cancer in both breasts, double mastectomies have risen in popularity for aesthetic reasons. If a woman has a single mastectomy and a breast reconstruction on only one breast, her breasts can take on very different appearances. Advancements in the quality of breast reconstruction make it possible for women who have suffered from cancer to regain a level of confidence in their appearances that help them feel better in their daily lives. Reconstructive forms have become incredibly natural looking and mastectomy bras now come in a large variety of styles and material. In some cases, insurance companies are required to pay for bras and prosthesis in addition to the mastectomy.

There are potential health benefits to mastectomy as well. A recent study published in the European Society for Radiotherapy and Oncology journal found that, over a 20-year period, young women who opted for lumpectomies and radiation treatment had a 13% higher rate of local recurrence of cancer in their breasts or lymph nodes than women who had a mastectomy and didn’t receive radiation.

In contrast, women over 45 experienced no difference in their rate of cancer recurrence whether they underwent mastectomy or breast conserving therapy. For this reason, and perhaps less of a desire to undergo a complete breast reconstruction surgery, mastectomies are not as popular for women in their mid-40s or older.

Not all doctors are on board with this new trend toward mastectomies, and point to different studies that don’t show a strong survival benefit from mastectomy in cases where breast conserving surgery could have been used instead.

Many medical professionals are especially confused by the rise in women without cancer who have undergone double mastectomies as a preventative measure. The fear of breast cancer has become so intense that women will occasionally have a double mastectomy if they feel there’s any risk that they may eventually contract the disease. If a medical tests reveals that they have a BRCA gene mutation, otherwise known as the “cancer gene,” the likelihood of them developing cancer is much higher. Faced with this information, many women chose the most aggressive option. Removing the breasts isn’t a “cure-all,” though, and women may still have to undergo radiation treatment and additional therapy.

Despite the radical nature of the surgery, mastectomies are likely to remain popular in years to come because of the peace of mind and potential health benefits they may provide for women.