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Study Finds 70% Of Double Mastectomies Not Needed

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Dr. Mallika Marshall, WBZ-TV Medical Reporter Dr. Mallika Marshall
Dr. Mallika Marshall is WBZ-TV News’ Medical Reporter and contributes...
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BOSTON (CBS) — Some women with breast cancer choose to have a double mastectomy. They have doctors remove both breasts to prevent cancer from developing in the unaffected breast down the road, but a new study shows many women who choose to do this, don’t really need to.

Researchers at the University of Michigan surveyed about 1,400 women with breast cancer in both Detroit and Los Angeles and found that 70-percent of women who chose to remove both breasts were not at high risk of having cancer develop in the healthy breast.

Dr. Mehra Golshan is a breast cancer surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He says several factors may be driving women’s decisions.

“It’s peace, it’s comfort, it’s saying that I never have to have another mammogram again or if I’m going to feel a lump in the opposite breast, I’m going to break down for a month and not talk to anyone,” Golshan said. “I watch TV like everyone else and the Christina Applegates and Angelina Jolies of the world, they have an inherited predisposition to cancer, so they have a very high risk of developing breast cancer so for them it was the right thing and right choice for them.”

But Golshan says those genetic mutations affect less than ten percent of breast cancers in the United States and most women will not be at high risk of developing breast cancer on the opposite side.

“My number one concern with them is them living and it’s with the cancer they have in the breast that we know about and not necessarily a potential cancer in the opposite side forming in the future,” Golshan said.

A mastectomy is no easy surgery and having both breasts removed increases the risk of complications and the recovery time and could delay further cancer treatments. But Golshan says every woman should weigh the pros and cons carefully before deciding what to do.

“It’s a choice and a choice that if they decide to do it, I’ll support them 100-percent,” he says.

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