Study: More breast cancer patients choosing mastectomies -

Study: More breast cancer patients choosing mastectomies

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By KMOV Web Producer By KMOV Web Producer

NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Angelina Jolie shocked the world last year when she announced she had a double mastectomy as a precautionary measure to avoid getting breast cancer.

A recent study revealed a similar phenomenon among women diagnosed with stage I and II breast cancer.

Since 2006, the number of women getting mastectomies has risen by more than 10 percent. Many women don't even necessarily need the procedure to survive.

"I think the big question is why? Why are women choosing this? What is really driving this decision making?" asked Dr. Mary Hooks, an oncologist with Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Since 1990, the National Institute of Health has recommended that women with early stage breast cancer forego the invasive mastectomies of the past in favor of procedures designed to protect as much of the original breast as possible.

When the study began in 1998, the number of annual mastectomies steadily went down for about eight years in a row. In 2006, those numbers began to climb.

By 2011, more women were opting for a mastectomy than before that study began.

"They're definitely doing more than is required, and there is a social, cultural thing to it because this is not the trend. This is not the case in Europe," Hooks said.

The number of mastectomies in Europe are decreasing at a rate of about four percent a year. That leaves surgeons, such as Hooks, wondering if there's more the medical community should be doing to educate women before taking a more aggressive approach than is truly needed.

"I think that following a breast cancer diagnosis, it's very difficult to process information," Hooks said. "Women don't understand what their real risks are in terms of recurrence and survival."

The number of cosmetic reconstructions are also on the rise.

The study begs the question of whether those better techniques have caused some women who would have never considered a mastectomy to now be open to the possibilities.

"In the end, while the reconstructive surgeons do a very good job... it's not quite the same as a natural breast," Hooks said.

In 2014, 95 percent of the women diagnosed with breast cancer survived.

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