It is an unfortunately common problem in women, and a rare disease in men, but double mastectomies have seen a rise among male breast cancer patients, who seek a definite solution in spite of the lack of evidence to support it.
The practice is gaining popularity among both women and men who suffer from breast cancer, but the data spanning from 2004 to 2014 has shown a significant increase for male patients as well. It’s highly uncommon for men to be attributed to the cancer, due to the fact that they make only 1% of the cases.
By comparison, 1 in 8 women are likely to develop some type of invasive breast cancer throughout her life, while only 1 in 1,000 men face that same fate.
According to Ahmendin Jemal from the American Cancer Society, and lead author of the study, it’s unclear why they’re opting for such an expensive and dangerous procedure with no definitive evidence to back up the claims that it might save their lives. However, there is a chance it may be effective for both genders, so more and more patients are choosing it as a solution.
Researchers from the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and American Cancer Society gathered data on over 6,000 male breast cancer patients who opted for the surgery in 10 years. They observed that the practice of undergoing contralateral prophylactic mastectomy (CPM), or more commonly known as double mastectomy, had nearly doubled for men as well.
For male patients, from 2004 to 2011, the surgery to remove both the healthy breast as well as the afflicted one in fear of a reoccurrence has gone from 3% to 5.6%. It had also seen an increase for female patients, from 4.5% to 11%, though that could be attributed to the more numerous studies of its benefits for women.
According to Jemal, it’s not certain why the procedure has seen such a rise in men, but there are a few possible explanations.
For one, the risk of recurrence in breast cancer survivors is much higher among men. Male patients have a 20% of a re-diagnosis while women have only a 5% risk. And out of 2,000 cases per year, 440 men die due to breast cancer.
Secondly, it could be attributed to the fact that insurance companies cover reconstructive surgeries that would be an often choice after undergoing CPM, though it has been noted that most male patients who choose a double mastectomy are, on average, white, young and well insured.
The third reason could also be attributed to media coverage, such as Angelina Jolie undergoing the procedure a few years ago after being told she carried the defective genes. The attention of such a famous celebrity can certainly sway opinions toward the topic’s more positive end, especially if it features great results.
Jemal recommends all male breast cancer patients to properly discuss the risk and cost of surgeries with their doctors, and gather up as much knowledge as possible in order to make an informed decision.
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