Here's Why The Rising Rate Of Mastectomies Is So Worrisome

Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Thanks to years of advocacy, women today are without a doubt aware of breast cancer. From Angelina Jolie speaking openly about her own mastectomy to breast cancer survivors highlighting their scars with vibrant tattoos, some might even argue that we couldn't be more aware. But could this level of attention, in fact, be doing some harm?

That is the question at the heart of a new study that found that the rate of women diagnosed with breast cancer choosing mastectomies on one or both breasts not yet affected by cancer has tripled between 2002 and 2012, without improving survival outcomes for those women.
More specifically, the researchers found that in 2002, about 4% of women diagnosed with breast cancer opted to have a contralateral prophylactic mastectomy (CPM), where both breasts are removed, even if the woman only has cancer in one breast. By 2012, it had increased to about 12.7%. While CPM may help prevent cancer from spreading to both breasts, it may not increase a patient's life expectancy.
Related: Why Losing My Hair Scared Me More Than Breast Cancer

The lead author of the current study, Mehra Golshan, MD, believes that mastectomies could be rising in popularity simply out of fear, Shape reports. As MRIs become more accurate, women can learn if they're at risk for developing cancer sooner, and may wish to take drastic action against it. Dr. Golshan also suggests that advances in reconstructive surgery may make women feel more comfortable with going through the procedure.

But, Dr. Golshan says, women with breast cancer often do have multiple options, including surgery to remove only the cancer-affected breast. While some women may ultimately find that CPM is the top choice for them, the best advice is to explore each option with the help of your doctors before rushing to the most extreme course of action.

And as always, early detection can make a massive difference in treatment, once diagnosed. So keep going to your screenings.

Click through to Shape for on maintaining your health and well-being. (Shape)

Related: What Really Works To Lower Your Breast Cancer Risk
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