More women opt for double mastectomies

The number of women undergoing double mastectomies for early-stage breast cancer increased significantly from 1998 to 2011, but, according to researchers, the surgeries were not associated with a lower mortality rates.

Researchers looked at the data of 189,734 patients diagnosed with stages 0 to 3 unilateral breast cancer in California.

Among those patients, the rate of bilateral mastectomies increased from 2 percent in 1998 to more than 12 percent in 2011. Among women younger than 40, the rate increased from 3.6 percent in 1998 to 33 percent in 2011, according to the report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Bilateral mastectomies were more often performed on white women, those with private insurance and those who received care at a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center, according to the report.

In contrast, unilateral mastectomies (removal of one breast) were more often performed on ethnic minorities and those with Medicaid insurance coverage, researchers found.

Despite the increase, researchers concluded bilateral mastectomies showed no significant all-cause mortality difference when compared with breast-conserving surgery and radiation.

Those with bilateral mastectomies had a 10-year mortality rate of 18.8 percent. The 10-year mortality rate for breast-conserving surgery with radiation was 16.8 percent, according to researchers.

Unilateral mastectomy, however, was associated with a higher mortality rate when compared to breast-conserving surgery and radiation. The mortality rate for unilateral mastectomy was 20.1 percent, according to researchers.

Marissa Harshman

Marissa Harshman

I'm the health reporter for The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. I started at The Columbian -- my hometown newspaper -- in September 2009. Reach me at or 360-735-4546.

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