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Preemptive mastectomy: Worth it for only some women

April 18, 2017—After a breast cancer diagnosis and mastectomy, some women choose to have their healthy breast removed too. It's called contralateral prophylactic mastectomy (CPM). But it's a complex surgery that has serious risks, including infection and limited arm and shoulder movement later.

Medical guidelines generally discourage CPM unless a woman has a high risk of a second breast cancer. That's based on her family history or genetic tests. Yet more women are interested in the surgery than ever before—and most of them are at average risk for developing cancer in the healthy breast, rather than high risk.

This points to the need for candid discussions between women and their surgeon about all of their options. A recent study shows that women who have a more in-depth discussion about CPM are more satisfied with their surgery overall—even if they decided against CPM. Patients whose surgeons dismissed CPM but didn't talk about it tended to be less satisfied.

Check out the study in JAMA Surgery.

Be informed

Breast cancer decisions involve complex and personal choices. So take time to learn about the pros and cons of treatments and procedures. If a preventive mastectomy is one of your options, make sure you understand your risk of a second cancer and whether the procedure could help you.

Women with early-stage breast cancer may have many choices. Some may not need a mastectomy at all, according to the American Cancer Society. Instead, many women can decide to have a lumpectomy (which removes the tumor but spares most of the breast). Learn about the pros and cons. And find out more about other types of surgery for breast cancer.

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