Once diagnosed with breast cancer, you may be overwhelmed with uncertainty, many unknowns, and multiple decisions to be made regarding your treatment and surgical options.
Should you choose a lumpectomy (breast conserving surgery) with radiation or a mastectomy? If only one breast is affected, should you opt to have a contralateral prophylactic mastectomy on the other breast? How comfortable are you with the ongoing risk for developing breast cancer if you choose a lumpectomy? Will you choose to reconstruct?
Few breast cancers require immediate surgery. Generally, there is time to empower yourself with information. It is important to have a full understanding of your pathology report. Specifics regarding the stage of your cancer, tumor location, and hormone receptor status will all have an important role in determining the best way to proceed.
Once you have your surgical team in place, use their expertise to guide you. Interview previous patients about their experiences and results. Most importantly, you will need to assess your internal feelings and apprehensions regarding surgery, appearance, and minimizing risk.
Choosing a prophylactic, preventative mastectomy is a very personal choice, a choice that has been on the rise in the U.S. over the last decade. Why would a woman choose to remove her healthy, cancer-free breasts? For many women the choice is based on a strong family history of breast cancer or as a result of testing positive for the BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 genetic mutations, the mutations which are associated with an increased risk for developing breast cancer. For these women at high risk, routine breast screenings become an exercise in managing anxiety and fear. Will this mammogram be THE mammogram, the time that they finally find cancer?
A prophylactic mastectomy can decrease a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer in her lifetime by as much as 90%. This fact, coupled with greatly improved, aesthetically beautiful reconstruction, makes the choice a very viable option, an option that improves their quality of life. For these women, a prophylactic mastectomy is an opportunity to take control of their breast cancer future, thereby drastically reducing the anxiety and stress of being high risk.