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Contralateral Prophylactic Mastectomy May Not Significantly Increase Life Expectancy

Women with early-stage breast cancer in one breast are increasingly opting to undergo a more aggressive operation to remove both breasts called contralateral prophylactic mastectomy (CPM). Rates of double mastectomies have more than doubled over the last decade for women with early-stage cancer, but for women with cancer in one breast, having the healthy breast removed may not provide a survival benefit, according to new research findings presented at the 2013 Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons.

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 232,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S. every year, making breast cancer the second most common type of cancer in women, after skin cancer. Many women who face this diagnosis worry about cancer recurring in the healthy breast and therefore choose to have both breasts removed, even though the risk of developing cancer in the other breast is very low. Women at high risk include those with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer and women who test positive for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations.

Importantly, until now no study has looked at the decision-making processes that lead women to choose CPM. "There have been several studies in the last couple of years indicating that there may be a survival benefit for selected patients by having their healthy breast removed," said study coauthor Todd M. Tuttle, MD, FACS, chief of surgical oncology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. "This research will provide physicians and patients with accurate and easily understood information about whether removal of the healthy breast will impact their survival at all."

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