A recent study out of University of Michigan concludes:

The study found that 90 percent of women who had surgery to remove both breasts reported being very worried about the cancer recurring. But, a diagnosis of breast cancer in one breast does not increase the likelihood of breast cancer recurring in the other breast for most women.

“Women appear to be using worry over cancer recurrence to choose contralateral prophylactic mastectomy. This does not make sense, because having a non-affected breast removed will not reduce the risk of recurrence in the affected breast,” says Sarah Hawley, Ph.D., associate professor of internal medicine at the U-M Medical School.

Bottom line: If you have a family history of cancer, or mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, you are a good candidate for double mastectomy. This is pretty much settled science…

The “settled science” is actually agreement on lowered probability of recurrence based on population studies. It’s a bunch of numbers that represent reality. So, while doctors try to use their powers of persuasion to convince patients not to have a double mastectomy, patients are saying “hell no, get it out of me, right now!”

Yes, women who have been diagnosed with cancer “appear to be using worry” to make big medical decisions. Worry has accompanied all big decisions, it’s part of the human condition. And if a double mastectomy makes all that worry go away, who’s to say it’s the wrong choice? It may be a bad bet based on the numbers, but it could be good healthcare.

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