An increasing number of men diagnosed with breast cancer are now choosing to have both their breasts removed through a double mastectomy surgery.
Although they are not facing the same risk as women, man can also be affected by breast cancer. One of the most common way of treating the condition is by removing the diseased breast. In some instances however, it is highly recommended for its healthy counterpart be removed as well.
This is done by a process called “contralateral prophylactic mastectomy”, but commonly refereed to as a “double mastectomy”, in relation to the procedure it accompanies. It is preventing measure, performed in cases when the patient exhibits a particularly high risk of developing cancer in his unaffected breast.
A recent study found that between 2004 and 2011 the percentage of men opting for a double mastectomy surgery had increased nearly twofold, from 3% to 5,6%.
Despite the increasing popularity enjoyed among patients, specialists consider the procedure to be often times unnecessary. Following the study, Dr. Ahmedin Jemal, vice president of the Surveillance and Health Services Reaserch found the 5,6% figure to be significantly higher than what would be recommended.
Most of the time, the low risk of a relapse does not justify going through the hustle of removing an additional breast. Furthermore the double mastectomy is not considered to be a sure measure against the cancer re-emerging. To date, there is no study to confirm a rise in life expectancy for the patients undertaking the procedure.
Yet, both men and women (an increase from 2 to 11% between 1998 and 2008 for the latter) patients choose to undergo the costly procedure in higher and higher numbers.
Dr. Larissa Horde finds this to be an effect of the patient’s strong attitude towards potential risks. She therefore advises medical professionals to pay considerable care in informing the patient about the advantages and disadvantages of their options, and to ensure that emotion doesn’t get to be a governing factor.
Doctors remind that we already have reliable methods of genetic testing for assessing the risk of breast cancer relapse, and patients should undergo testing before being allowed to make a decision.
The study examined data regarding 6,332 cases of men with breast cancer, collected at the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries over a period of seven years. In the vast majority of cases, 4800, the men chose to have only one breast removed.
1,254 opted to have parts of their affected breast saved, and 278 man chose the prophylactic removal of their healthy breast.
The study was published on the 2nd of September in JAMA’s Surgery Journal.
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