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Prophylactic Double Mastectomy May Have Some Pitfalls

Women diagnosed with breast cancer may make the conscious choice to undergo a double mastectomy even if tumors are only found in a single breast. A double mastectomy can help remove the likelihood of cancer developing in the second breast while also potentially delivering peace of mind. This extra surgical step, however, may reduce quality of life for some patients while adding to the overall costs associated with cancer care.

Several recent studies have indicated that double mastectomy may not always be the best choice for women when lower-risk forms of the disease present. While some aggressive forms of the disease may call for this prophylactic move, lower-risk patients may want to carefully consider routine surveillance and a unilateral mastectomy instead. The decision ultimately should be made after lengthy discussion with a healthcare provider about the potential benefits and the risks.

Nearly 250,000 American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in the coming year. An estimated 40,000 will die from the disease. The best course of treatment will depend on the severity of the disease, the size of tumors detected and the stage of the disease. Mastectomies are often recommended as a first line of attack against this disease. Other treatments recommended may include chemotherapy and radiation.

All women are technically at risk for the development of breast cancer. With that in mind, it is strongly recommended that women undergo routine medical checkups and perform self-examinations to help detect this disease in its earlier, more treatable stages. Mammograms are also recommended on a routine basis starting around the age of 40. Women at higher risk for the disease, such as those with a family history, may find the need for mammograms presents earlier. Women who are concerned about breast cancer are urged to discuss their risks with their healthcare providers. Should the disease be found, it’s recommended that women discuss all treatment options with their doctors and gain the information they need to make sound decisions in regard to their care.

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