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Choice of Surgery May Affect Quality of Life for Young Breast Cancer Survivors

Even as more young women with breast cancer opt to have mastectomies, many experience a persistent decline in their sexual and psychosocial well-being following the procedure, as detailed in new research by Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center. The findings, presented at the 2018 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, underscore the importance of counseling patients about the potential long-term physical and emotional consequences of the procedure, researchers say.

"Historically, it was felt that 75 percent of breast cancer patients should be eligible for breast conserving surgery. Over time, however, more women, particularly young women, are electing to have a mastectomy," says the lead author of the study, Laura Dominici, MD, a surgeon at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center.

"They frequently offer peace of mind as the reason for their decision - even though research shows that unless a woman has a genetic predisposition to breast cancer, she has a very low risk of developing cancer in the healthy breast.

"The decision of whether to have a mastectomy or breast-conserving surgery should be a shared decision between patients and their doctors," she continues. "Particularly when talking to young women, who are likely to have a long period of survivorship, it's important that we as clinicians discuss the potential impacts of mastectomy on their quality of life."

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