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Double mastectomy: New information, tough choices

Pink breast cancer ribbons
Pink breast cancer ribbons
Kai Chan Vong/Flickr (Creative Commons-licensed)

Women: check out Monday's story by KPCC health reporter Elizabeth Aguilera on double mastectomies. It is a thought-provoking report about the tough decisions women face when they are diagnosed with cancer in one of their breasts.

Elizabeth was following up on a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association of 190,000 breast cancer cases in California. The researchers found a big increase between 1998 and 2011 in the percentage of women with early-stage cancer in one breast who were choosing double mastectomies.

The study also found that those women were not improving their chances of surviving their original cancer. Removing both breasts does not guarantee that the original cancer won't return. The researchers found that survival rates were essentially the same for women who had a lumpectomy followed by radiation. 

It is true that the procedure lowers the risk (although it does not eliminate it) of contracting another breast cancer.

Dr. Amy Kusske, surgical director of the UCLA Breast Center Santa Monica, understands why so many are choosing the more radical procedure:

"When a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer it invokes a lot of fear, and so many times a patient or a person will come after getting diagnosed with breast cancer and say, 'just take them both off.'"

Big improvements in reconstructive surgery have also helped women decide on the double mastectomy.

Have you or someone you know had to make the decision about how to deal with a breast cancer diagnosis? Tell us about it in the comments section below or at