From 1998 to 2011, the rate of women having double mastectomies for cancer in one breast increased nearly six-fold. The increase was mostly among younger women with early-stage breast cancer and no genetic risk factors—women who might be eligible for breast-conserving surgery called a lumpectomy instead of a full mastectomy.
Studies already suggest that removing both breasts has little impact on reducing deaths among women with cancer in only one breast. Now, Duke cancer researchers find it doesn’t have much impact on their quality of life either. “Unless a woman has a gene mutation that places her at significantly increased risk of a new cancer in the other breast, double mastectomy doesn’t prolong life, and our study shows that it doesn’t make for a notably better quality of life,” said Dr. Shelley Hwang, MD, a breast surgeon at Duke and author of the study, which was published online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.