Health

A Penchant For Preventive Mastectomies

(Credit: KDKA)

(Credit: KDKA)

(Source: KDKA-TV) Dr. Maria Simbra
Dr. Maria Simbra is an Emmy award-winning medical journalist, who...
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CBS Pittsburgh (con't)

Affordable Care Act Updates: CBSPittsburgh.com/ACA

Health News & Information: CBSPittsburgh.com/Health

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Even if you don’t have cancer, would you have your breasts removed?

“I had several people ask me, are you sure, are you positive, is this really something you want to do? I never even had a second thought about it,” says Laura Sago.

Because her mother and her two sisters were diagnosed with breast cancer, she had a preventive double mastectomy.

“With me, it was a matter of when am I going to hear that diagnosis. I just had that feeling like I was eventually going to hear it. So I don’t have that worry any more,” she continues.

According to the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council, the number of women across the state who are choosing this is up — from 94 in 2002, to 455 in 2011.

A trend this breast surgeon sees in her own practice.

“They’ve been newly diagnosed with breast cancer in one breast and basically walk in and say, take them both off. I’m too worried about this, I just want to get rid of both of the breasts,” Dr. Kathleen Erb of Allegheny General Hospital says. “That always makes me a little nervous at first. Has she really thought this through, is this just an instantaneous reaction to the diagnosis? But after a lot of thought, many women still kinda stick with wanting to do that then.”

The availability of testing for genetic mutations that increase the risk of developing breast cancer and {file surgery} options for reconstructive surgery may play a part in the growing numbers. Celebrities choosing double mastectomy, such as actress Christina Applegate, have also put the issue into the spotlight.

“It’s not just a Pennsylvania thing by any means,” says Dr. Erb, alluding to national studies showing similar patterns.

“I am relieved to have done it,” says Laura Sago.

Women do have other options, such as breast conserving surgery.

While the preventive mastectomy trend is growing, there needs to be more study of whether these surgeries actually prevent death and increase survival.

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