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Masectomy on the rise among American women


A new federal government report has revealed the number of women in the United States undergoing mastectomies is increasing, even though the overall rate of breast cancer has remained the same, medicalxpress reports.

According to data from the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the percentage of American women who opted for mastectomy jumped by more than a third (36 percent) from 2005 to 2013.

The data "highlights changing patterns of care for breast cancer and the need for further evidence about the effects of choices women are making on their health, well-being and safety," Rick Kronick, AHRQ director, said in an agency news release.

"More women are opting for mastectomies, particularly preventive double mastectomies, and more of those surgeries are being done as outpatient procedures," he added.

The new report is based on data from 13 states with more than 25 percent of the United States' population. AHRQ is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The rate of women without breast cancer who underwent preventive double mastectomies also more than doubled, the report found.

Dr. Stephanie Bernik said that even though the overall survival rate of breast cancer patients who opt for mastectomy or "lumpectomy" is roughly the same, women are increasingly choosing mastectomy.

"Some of the reasons behind this trend are likely due to increased genetic screening, improved reconstruction options and a woman's desire to potentially reduce the chance of developing a breast cancer in the opposite breast," said Bernik. She is chief of surgical oncology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

"What most studies fail to acknowledge is that although survival may not be improved by preventive masectomy, it does decrease the chance of developing a second cancer in the opposite breast," she added.

"Furthermore, with improved reconstructive options, many patients opt for a bilateral procedure for symmetry."

Dr. Frank Monteleone directs the Breast Health Center at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y. He said that even though a mastectomy is not always medically warranted, "some women would rather endure the masectomy rather than go through frequent mammograms and potential biopsies down the road, which can produce anxiety each time."

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