Most Breast Cancer Patients Happy with Choice to Remove Non-Cancerous Breast

Reconstructive surgery made some women less happy with decision to have contralateral prophylactic mastectomy

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) When a woman decides to get a cancerous breast removed, she may need to decide if the second, healthy breast should also be removed to reduce her risk of another cancer. In that moment, it can be hard for women to know if they made the right choice.

A recent study has found that the majority of women who opted to have a mastectomy (surgical removal) of the healthy breast were happy with their decision a decade later.

Those who had reconstruction — surgery to make the breast mound about the same size and shape as before the mastectomy — were surprisingly less likely to think they made the right decision compared with women who did not have reconstruction. The researchers believe this may be because 39 percent of women who had reconstruction needed another unplanned surgery.

This study was done by Judy Boughey, MD, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and colleagues.

The researchers learnt how the women felt by sending out more than 600 questionnaires about 10 and 20 years after the women had the non-cancerous breast removed; a procedure called contralateral prophylactic mastectomy (CPM). All were women who had breast cancer in one breast and chose to have a CPM.

Of the 583 women who answered the first questionnaire about a decade after their surgery, 403 had undergone reconstruction of their breasts.

Overall, 83 percent were happy with their decision to have a CPM.

Women who had reconstruction were less satisfied with their decision than women who did not.

Of the 269 women who answered the questionnaire about 20 years after their surgery, 92 percent said they would choose to have a CPM again.

Some women who had chosen reconstruction reported more satisfaction with their appearance, higher self-esteem and feeling more feminine than those who did not have reconstructive surgery.

Still, the vast majority of women were happy with the decision they had made earlier.

“I think what this study does is adds some literature to the hands of the people counseling patients to say, ‘Whatever decision you make, you’re very likely to be happy with that in the long run, so listen to yourself, and make the decision that’s best for you,’” Dr. Boughey said in a press release.

The study authors noted that there is mixed data on whether breast cancer patients with CPM live longer than those who do not choose to remove the healthy breast, though most studies show they do not.

This study appeared in the September issue of the Annals of Surgical Oncology.

The authors did not disclose any conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
October 3, 2014
Last Updated:
October 8, 2014