Deciding a course of treatment for breast cancer is between a patient and a doctor. Research and educating yourself is the best idea when it comes to weighing your options. Lately, many women are choosing to have a double mastectomy when they have cancer in only one breast. Anxiety about cancer returning and a less-than-thorough conversation with their doctors are often speculated as reasons women opt for a double mastectomy.
In 2017, the American Cancer Association is estimating there will be 252,710 new breast cancer cases in the United States. An article published in JAMA Surgeries found there is a tremendous rise in women getting double mastectomies. This is especially true in younger women who are between the ages 20-45.
Between the years 2012-2015 double mastectomies have tripled. Often women want to just get rid of the cancer, and hope the cancer never returns again. Doctors fear this kind of decision-making is not necessarily the best path. They think women are not considering the pain and recovery period, or the long-term effects of a double mastectomy.
Interestingly, where women who have breast cancer live has an impact on the method of treatment. According to an article published by Reuters, breast cancer patients who live in Maine, Missouri, South Dakota, Iowa, Colorado, Nebraska, and Montana had the most rise in double mastectomies. The increase has been seen nationwide, but it is difficult to understand why double mastectomies increased more in these states.
A huge factor that might lead to more double mastectomies is women believe removing both breasts will increase survival rates. However, according to numerous studies, there are no direct links to mastectomies and survival rate, unless genetics (or some other health problems), are involved. The American Cancer Society agrees with these studies and believes women should know all the facts before committing to such a life-altering surgery if they do not need one.
I thought very long before I chose a double mastectomy. I found it to be one of the hardest decisions of my life because it changes you physically. In my case, however, I have a physical disability that causes my muscles to involuntarily move sometimes. Radiation and tamoxifen would’ve been the recommended treatment if I could sit still long enough radiation. But I can’t, and getting a mammogram accomplished had been extremely difficult. I also have a great support system that might not be available in the future if for some reason breast cancer recurred.
So, when I considered all of my options, I choose to have a double mastectomy, even though my doctor said it wasn’t medically necessary. Do I regret it? Sometimes I do. Reconstruction never feels as comfortable as your own body. I do like the idea of no more mammograms, though.
Always discuss options and do your research before choosing a plan. Don’t let anxiety push you into a fast decision, especially if you have caught the cancer early.
Note: Breast Cancer News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Breast Cancer News, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to breast cancer.