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More women opt for double breast removal

Published On: Sep 16 2011 04:01:32 PM CDT
Updated On: Oct 20 2009 07:41:10 AM CDT
pink bra breast cancer

iStock / hidesy

More women with an early diagnosis of breast cancer are choosing to have both breasts removed, a cancer surgeon has found.

Dr. Todd Tuttle of the University of Minnesota found that the rate of double mastectomy in women with a form of cancer called ductal carcinoma in situ went up 188 percent from 1998 to 2005.

In 2005, 13.5 percent of women in a study of 51,000 with DCIS had both breasts removed. Tuttle expressed doubts about that course of treatment.

"The 10-year survival rate for women with DCIS is 98 to 99 percent," Tuttle said. "Therefore, removal of the normal contralateral breast will not improve the excellent survival rates for this group of women. Nevertheless, many women, particularly young women, are choosing to have both breasts removed."

In a previous research study, Tuttle and his colleagues found more American women choosing to have both breasts removed when cancer has been found in only one breast.

A news release on the work described DCIS as the earliest stage of breast cancer, when the cancer is small and confined. It is considered highly treatable. However, if the cancer is aggressive in nature or not treated, it can become more serious or develop in the healthy breast.

Tuttle and his colleagues used the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database to evaluate information about 51,030 women diagnosed with DCIS in one breast between 1988 and 2005. They found that 2,072 (13.5 percent) of the women chose breast removal surgery for their DCIS treatment. Furthermore, between 1998 and 2005 the rate of women opting for the surgery increased by 188 percent.

Breast cancer affects more than 214,000 women in the U.S. each year.

The findings were published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.