In “The Well Column” of the New York Times, Tara Parker-Pope reports that researchers estimate as many as 15% of the women diagnosed with breast cancer annually choose to have a double mastectomy, even though they have not undergone genetic testing or counseling.   Parker-Pope says, “A new generation of women want doctors to take a more aggressive approach, and more and more are asking that even healthy breasts be removed to ward off cancer before it can strike.”  Some physicians have called the trend “almost an epidemic of prophylactic mastectomy.”

In the 1970s, women’s health advocates were highly suspicious of mastectomies. They argued that surgeons — in those days, pretty much an all-male club — were far too quick to remove a breast after a diagnosis of cancer, with disfiguring results.

But today, the pendulum has swung the other way. A new generation of women want doctors to take a more aggressive approach, and more and more are asking that even healthy breasts be removed to ward off cancer before it can strike.

 

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