More double mastectomies for men with breast cancer

Sep 04, 2015, 5:10 PM EDT
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Among the low number of men who are diagnosed with breast cancer are many who are opting for double mastectomies, and medical officials are looking at the necessity of such surgeries. The trend has risen sharply among men where it has been present in women for decades. The Washington Post reports:
Most people assume breast cancer is just a female thing. All those public service posters, fundraising walkathon T-shirts  and stuffed animals marketed to raise awareness of the disease are typically saturated in pink, after all.
But about 1 percent of cases in the United States are actually in men -- and it turns out a growing number of them are choosing to do what Angelina Jolie did and remove both breasts to reduce the risk of any recurrence.
In a new study published Wednesday in JAMA Surgery, researchers report that the number of male breast cancer patients getting what's called contralateral prophylactic mastectomy (or CPM), which involves removing a healthy breast in addition to the one with a tumor, nearly doubled from 2004 to 2011 from 3 percent to 5.6 percent. The data came from the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries (NAACCR) and was large, with a sample of 6,332 men.
"The increase in the rate of this costly, serious procedure with no evidence of survival benefit comes, paradoxically, at a time of greater emphasis on quality and value in cancer care," said study leader Dr. Ahmedin Jemal, vice president of surveillance and health services research at the American Cancer Society.
The study included more than 6,300 men who had surgery for cancer in one breast. Their surgeries occurred between 2004 and 2011. The percentage of men who also had their cancer-free breast removed rose from 3 percent in 2004 to 5.6 percent in 2011, the study found.
Those mostly likely to have their cancer-free breast removed were younger, white and privately insured, the study said.
Findings were published online Sept. 2 in the journal JAMA Surgery.
"Health care providers should be aware that the increase we've seen in removal of the unaffected breast is not limited to women, and doctors should carefully discuss with their male patients the benefits, harms and costs of this surgery to help patients make informed decisions about their treatments," Jemal said in a journal news release.