Mastectomies Increased 36 Percent From 2005 to 2013, Report Finds

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A new report published today finds there has been a dramatic increase in the number of mastectomies over the past decade.

Although breast cancer rates remained the same, the rate of women getting mastectomies increased 36 percent from 2005 to 2013, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Overall, the rate of mastectomies increased from 66 in 100,000 women in 2005 to 90 in 100,000 women in 2013. Women getting double mastectomies more than tripled, going from nine out of 100,000 women in 2005 to 30 out of 100,000 women in 2013. As a result, one third of all mastectomies were double mastectomies in 2013.

Additionally, the rate of women without cancer getting preventative double mastectomies increased from two per 100,000 women to four per 100,000 women in 2005.

AHRQ Director Rick Kronick said in a statement that the report shows changing attitudes toward health and a new willingness to treat mastectomies as "preventative" measures to diminish the chance of developing cancer.

“This brief highlights changing patterns of care for breast cancer and the need for further evidence about the effects of choices women are making on their health, well-being and safety,” said AHRQ Director Rick Kronick. “More women are opting for mastectomies, particularly preventive double mastectomies, and more of those surgeries are being done as outpatient procedures.”

Dr. Robert Shenk, medical director of the Breast Center at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, said that he has seen more and more patients want to take extreme action after a breast cancer diagnosis, even if only a lumpectomy is initially advised.

“They’re asking for mastectomies more and come in and say ‘I want to have both my breasts removed,’” he said, explaining some patients think the cancer can spread to the second breast. “They overestimate the risk it can come back.”

Shenk said that in some cases the chance of reoccurrence after a breast cancer diagnosis in one breast is just six percent but that women want to have a double mastectomy to bring down the reoccurrence chance to one percent. He said he’s concerned women are choosing these invasive surgeries to feel “safe” even if a less invasive lumpectomy would be an option with a high cure rate.