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Double mastectomies may not boost survival rates for most women

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Women who choose to have double mastectomies when only one breast is has a tumor have been found to be risking their health unnecessarily according to a new health study in California, who found that the precautionary procedure did not increase their survival rates compared to women who had lumpectomies.

Although other research has suggested that removing both breasts to treat “one-sided” cancer may improve the odds of survival for women who have genetic cancer or a family history of the disease, their numbers are rather small. Scarlett Gomez a researcher at the Cancer Prevention Institute of California, and co-author of this new study. noted that most patients with breast cancer don’t have those risks.

In fact, Gomez’s study, which tracked close to 200,000 cancer patients treated for the disease in one breast for a decade found that that the survival rates (82%) were nearly identical for women who just had the tumors removed followed by radiation treatments as those who chose to have both their breasts removed. Surprisingly, those who had only one cancerous breast taken off faired worse according to the report, although the reason for this has yet to be determined.

It will now be interesting to see how this latest report (published in yesterday’s issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association will affect the trend toward double mastectomies vs lumpectomies among women under the age of 40 and whether it will convince more of them to forgo such drastic measures in the future.