Why Prophylactic Mastectomy Rates Are Increasing

Consistent with previous research, data presented Friday has found that a woman diagnosed with breast cancer is more likely to undergo mastectomy of the healthy breast, called prophylactic mastectomy, if she has an MRI and biopsy of that breast during treatment of the cancerous breast

Consistent with previous research, data presented Friday has found that a woman diagnosed with breast cancer is more likely to undergo mastectomy of the healthy breast, called prophylactic mastectomy, if she has an MRI and biopsy of that breast during treatment of the cancerous breast. Researchers from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center studied almost 3,000 women diagnosed between 1997 and 2005, trying to gauge whether the MRI and biopsy influenced a woman’s choice to have prophylactic mastectomy.

Journal of Clinical Oncology

The study is part of an ongoing effort to try to explain why prophylactic mastectomy rates are increasing. For example, researchers from the University of Minnesota Medical School reported in March in the that among women with DCIS—a common, non-invasive form of breast cancer—rates of prophylactic mastectomy increased from 2 percent to 5 percent over a 7-year period. Overall mastectomy rates of healthy breasts—for women at all stages of breast cancer—are also becoming more common.

During the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, researcher Tari King, MD, reported that during the study period, rates for prophylactic mastectomy among the women increased from 7 percent to 24 percent. Women who had undergone an MRI were three times as likely to choose preventive mastectomy, as were women who had a family history of breast cancer. Other factors also increased the likelihood of prophylactic mastectomy, though to a lesser degree: these included women who were younger or who had a prior attempt at reconstruction.

The study also examined whether removing both breasts provided a medical advantage to the women by decreasing the odds of recurrence. After an average of four years, there was little benefit. The main threat to women, whether they had undergone mastectomies or not, remained distant metastases.

This article is a part of CURE’s 2009 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium coverage. To read more articles from SABCS 2009, visit sabcs2009.curetoday.com.