MASON CITY, Iowa – About 1 in 8 women in the U.S. will develop breast cancer during their lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society.
Over the years an increasing number of women fighting breast cancer have chosen to undergo a double mastectomy to prevent the cancer from spreading.
However, new concerns are being raised about the risky, and potentially unnecessary operation.
Like many who are given a cancer diagnosis, Teresa Shaw was scared, but she wasn’t surprised.
“I just had a feeling, it was different than the other biopsies I’ve had that have just been cysts, it just felt different,” Shaw explains.
She was told she has breast cancer in June, and has since undergone 4 chemotherapy treatments. She has decided to undergo a double-mastectomy after her chemotherapy.
However, recently released results of a study show that removing both breasts, when there’s only cancer in one side, doesn’t boost survival in most cases. That’s compared to a lumpectomy with radiation.
“If you take away the other breast, the uninvolved breast, sometimes, psychologically you feel better that you’ve eliminated the risk but in reality, the risk is less than 1%,” explains Arvind Vemula, M.D.
Dr. Vemula is a surgical oncologist, he explains the results showed that ten-year survival rates we’re nearly identical for patients who had lumpectomies versus those who had double mastectomies.
“Doing a double mastectomy is not really that beneficial in terms of cost-benefit ratio. From a woman’s perspective, it’s anxiety, surgical complications and impact on cosmetic outcome and her body image,” Vemula explains.
Shaw says she’s familiar with the study, but still believes she’s making the right decision for her body.
“For me, I was told it’s very aggressive and can move to other parts of the body. It’s a triple negative, which is the receptors, so that’s even worse news. For me, it was just a no-brainer to go with doing both,” she says.
Going forward, she’s says she’s feeling good and looking forward to putting breast cancer behind her.
“I know there’s a reason for it, and I trust in God and I’m feeling very good about it. I’ve had good results so far, so I’m looking forward to finishing up my chemo and then going to surgery, and go on from there and live a full life,” Shaw adds.
She also tells us, her tumor was not caught during her routine mammogram. She wants to stress the importance of self-examinations, and says if she wouldn’t have done one, she may not have caught it in time.