Stanford Medicine Newsletter Updates For the Local Community


Study: Double mastectomy does not boost patient survival

A large-scale study of women undergoing breast cancer surgery showed no survival benefit for those who had both breasts removed compared with those who had a lumpectomy followed by radiation.

The analysis of nearly 190,000 California women, all diagnosed with cancer in one breast, was the first to compare survival rates among the three most common surgeries: double-breast removal; removal only of the affected breast; and lumpectomy (selective removal of cancerous tissue in the breast).

The study found that up to 12 percent of newly diagnosed patients in 2011 opted to have both breasts removed, despite uncertainty as to which was the best approach. The study dispels much of the uncertainty.

"We can now say that the average breast cancer patient who has bilateral mastectomy (removal of both breasts) will have no better survival than the average patient who has lumpectomy plus radiation," said Allison Kurian, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Stanford School of Medicine. "Furthermore, a mastectomy is a major procedure that can require significant recovery time and may entail breast reconstruction, whereas a lumpectomy is much less invasive with a shorter recovery period."

The researchers noted that women who are genetically predisposed to breast cancer might still benefit from removal of both breasts.

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