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Health Team

More breast cancer patients opting to remove second breast

Posted February 3, 2009
Updated March 9, 2009

Breast cancer treatment sometimes involves removing the cancerous breast. However, an increasing number of women are also having their remaining healthy breast removed to prevent cancer in it as well.

Some cancer patients removing second breast Some cancer patients removing second breast

The latest figures show that preventive mastectomies are up 150 percent. A new study might help breast cancer patients with the agonizing decision of whether or not to remove their remaining breast.

Researchers studied the health records of 542 women treated for breast cancer between 2000 and 2007. Doctors identified three distinct risk factors for developing a tumor in the second breast.

  • Multiple tumors in the original breast
  • An original tumor that started in the milk-producing lobes and spread like seeds.
  • High breast cancer risk according to age, race and family history

Some doctors said they are concerned about unnecessary mastectomies, pointing out that chemotherapy combined with  hormone therapy is a good alternative to surgery.

“Fear is definitely a big motivating factor (in getting the second breast removed),” said Dr. Sharon Rosenbaum Smith with St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in New York City. “They've been through it once. They don't want this to happen again.”

That was the case with Bridget Cochran, a breast cancer patient and mother of three.

“I'm afraid for me, but I'm more afraid for my kids, for they won't have me,” she said.

Three years after having one breast removed, she developed a tumor in the other, which led to another mastectomy.

“If I would have known then what I know now, yes, I would have gotten the second one removed at the same time,” she said.

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  • iamyeary Feb 4, 2009

    My girlfriend found out that she had breast cancer in one breast when she went in to have plastic surgery for breast augmentation. Talk about shock. But, if she had not been doing this, perhaps her cancer would not have been found as soon. She only had 1 breast removed and did not need any chemo or other treatments. I still wonder if she may have cause for concern. She got both breasts enhanced with silicone implants but who knows if the remaining breast can be viewed as well now, because of the implant. I agree that removing both breasts at once should bring more peace of mind even if it seems like drastic measures. We still don't know enough about breast cancer.

  • cnarron1 Feb 4, 2009

    I was diagnosed in Nov. of 2008 and if I had known then what I know now, with going through treatment, I would have had both breasts removed. I was told that with treatment and the level of cancer that I have, my chances are very good that it wouldn't come back. The treatment is hard. I never thought it would be easy, but, not this hard either. I was lucky in the sense that I had large enough breasts to start with that I was able to reconstruct both and not have implants and I actually like my "new" breasts better now than I did before! It's the "losing the hair" part that is the hardest part for me! I knew that it was going to happen, and I did everything to prepare for it. Then when it did happen, I wasn't prepared. It's just a shock! Just like getting the news for the first time, when you hear those words, "You have Breast Cancer".
    FIGHT LIKE A GIRL!

  • kdforthecure Feb 4, 2009

    I opted for the removal of my 2nd breast when diagnoised in 2006. Thank god I did, I ended up with Cancer in the 2nd breast too! Had reconstruction with implants and I am very happy with my new breasts! Did not want to go through that experience again if I could possibly help it!

  • AtALost Feb 3, 2009

    Makes perfect sense to me. What's the point of keeping one breast and possibly enduring treatment, etc. all over again. Other than the doctor wanting to bill for a totally separate surgery, don't see why they'd be concerned with the "unnecessary removal". Also, it would be more consistent to have two implants instead of only one.