Fear of Breast Cancer May Lead to Unnecessary Mastectomies

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Fear Drives Prophylactic Mastectomy

A higher proportion of women who underwent contralateral prophylactic mastectomy acknowledged being "very worried" about recurrence as compared with women who mastectomy only for the primary tumor, according to the study.

"This analysis of the SEER data suggests that we, as physicians, may not be adequately educating our patients about their risk for recurrent disease, " said Dr. Jyoti Patel, a spokesperson for the American Society for Clinical Oncology. "More unfortunately, many women who overestimate the risk of developing breast cancer in the contralateral breast undergo unnecessary surgery."

"This study suggests that we re-examine how we communicate with our patients regarding how we educate our patients about the decision to undergo prophylactic mastectomy," Patel added.

Public interest in prophylactic mastectomy has been piqued by well-publicized announcements by celebrities.

Television talk-show host Sharon Osbourne said she underwent a double prophylactic mastectomy because of increased genetic risk. Osbourne also has been treated for colorectal cancer.

Miss America contestant Allyn Rose, who will represent the District of Columbia in the pageant, announced her intention to undergo bilateral prophylactic mastectomy because of familial cancer risk. Her mother died of breast cancer when Rose was a teenager.

Both cases involved women with clinical indications for prophylactic mastectomy.

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