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Preventive Mastectomy

January 26, 2009, 5:00 PM by Kelli Grant

Preventive Mastectomy

An increasing number of women diagnosed with breast cancer are taking the radical step of having their healthy breast removed to prevent cancer.

  • Multiple tumors in the original breast.
  • An original tumor that started in the milk-producing lobes and spread like seeds.
  • A high breast cancer risk according to age, race and family history. 

Many welcome any new information that helps them better understand the hand they've been dealt. 

"I feared that it would come back. I feared that it would spread," Cochran said. 

Although this may help women make that difficult decision, some doctors are concerned about unnecessary mastectomies, pointing out that chemotherapy and hormone therapy is a good alternative to surgery.

But doctors are now making the decision a little easier. 

As a breast cancer patient, and a mom of three, Bridget Cochran's worst fears came true. 

"I'm more afraid for my kids for, they won't have me. That's what I'm afraid of,” Cochran said. 

Three years after having one breast removed, she developed a tumor in her other and had to have another mastectomy. 

"If I would have known then, what I know now, yes, I would have gotten the second one removed the same time," Cochran said. 

In fact, more and more women are taking that agonizing gamble: having their healthy breast removed in hopes of getting ahead of cancer. The latest figures show preventive mastectomies are up 150 percent. 

"They've been through it once.  They don't want this to happen again," Dr. Sharon Rosenbaum Smith said. 

A new study may help women make that difficult decision. Doctors have identified three distinct risk factors for developing a tumor in the second breast. 

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