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Double Mastectomy: a Personal Choice, a Life-Altering Decision

Former host of Dancing With the Stars, Samantha Harris recently tweeted a photo of herself post-op after having a double mastectomy.  Harris, age 40, discovered a lump in her breast in April this year during a self-exam, but a mammography came back clean.  Fortunately, Harris remained unconvinced and consulted with more specialists about the lump, opting for a biopsy and lumpectomy, and ultimately was diagnosed with breast cancer.  She opted for a double mastectomy, saying it offered her “the best chance” and was courageous to post her post-op photo on social media.  However, new reports suggest that a double mastectomy offers no better of a survival advantage when there are no other complicating factors such as a genetic predisposition to breast cancer or a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer.

Likelihood of Breast Cancer Recurrence Low in Most Women; Double Mastectomy Unnecessary 

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan and published in JAMA, looked at 1,477 women who had been treated for breast cancer and who had not had a recurrence.  The results revealed that about three-quarters of the women expressed concerns that their cancer would return, and 8% of the women had undergone a double mastectomy.  Women with higher education levels and those who had an MRI before treatment were more likely to opt for the double mastectomy.  The difficulty with the double mastectomy, the researchers say, is that it offers no better survival rate because breast cancer is unlikely to reoccur in most women.  In addition, a double mastectomy is a grueling surgery with a long recovery time, and most women also opt to undergo reconstructive surgery to create new breasts, adding more time to recovery.  In fact, only about 3% of the women in the study developed cancer again.

Celebrities Lend Credence to Benefits of Double Mastectomy

With celebrities such as Samantha Harris and Angelina Jolie publicizing their decisions to have a double mastectomy, it may seem that this is the right way to go.  However, doctors say that only some women will truly benefit from having one, such as those with specific genetic mutations (BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 gene mutation).  However, these women only account for about 10% of all breast cancer cases.  A double mastectomy carries with it several risks, including post-op and chronic pain, decrease in sexuality, and decrease in breast sensitivity.  However, fear is a propelling factor and the rate of double mastectomy among breast cancer patients continues to rise.  The researchers stress that it is important that patients be educated that having both breasts removed doesn’t do much to increase their rates of survival, and that it may also do little to alleviate their fears.


  1. Gravatar for doris kumar
    doris kumar

    why chronic pain after operation??

  2. Gravatar for Sheryl Petro
    Sheryl Petro

    I got breast cancer 8 yrs ago...My daughter suggested a double Mastectomy...I did not like that diagnosis so got a 2nd opinion...This Dr stated there was no reason to have that done as my breast cancer had not spread to lymph nodes and was 1st stage...(sounds like that may not even matter anyways) but, back then there was no way I wanted to go through that...sounds horrible! And, I like my boobs:) Still do! Thank goodness for 2nd opinions! Its very scary getting that diagnosis...My advice is don't make any rash decisions...You have time! Make sure you are as informed as possible! Good Luck!

  3. Gravatar for Sheryl Petro
    Sheryl Petro

    Sorry, not sure why it stated Daughter above supposed to have been Doctor!!!

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