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Men and Double Mastectomies

Breast cancer in men is an uncommon disease. According to medical research, less than one percent of breast cancer occurs in men. Most men diagnosed with breast cancer choose to have mastectomy to remove the cancer. However, a surprising new study indicates that the number of men opting for double mastectomies has doubled. Men with breast cancer are getting both their breasts removed much more often, even if the other one is healthy.

Researchers from the national cancer registries examined data and found that more than 6,000 men underwent surgery in 2004-2011. While 76% of men had a single mastectomy (removal of breast affected with cancer), nearly 20% of men had lumpectomy (surgery to remove the tumor). However, according to a live science report, the rate of double mastectomies in men increased twofold – from 3 percent in 2004 to 5.6 percent in 2011.

Double Mastectomies: Men vs Women

male-breast-cancerWomen diagnosed with breast cancer in single breast have been opting for double mastectomies for decades. Genetic mutations such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 can increase the risk of developing cancer in the other breast. Studies have revealed that women who have these genetic mutations benefit greatly by having double mastectomies. However, women who do not have this genetic mutation may get little or no benefit by opting for double mastectomies. On the other hand, it is very difficult to ascertain that double mastectomies will help improve the prognosis in men, even if they have the genetic mutation BRCA1 and BRCA2. Additionally, most women who choose this procedure, even when it may not be required, often opt for a reconstructive surgery that my increase future risks and complications from infections. On the other hand, men do not usually opt for such type of surgery and may not experience additional complications. Double mastectomies are shown to increase life expectancy in women, but the same has not been proven for men. 

Why are men opting for Double Mastectomies?

One of the primary reasons that men choose double mastectomies is the fear of developing cancer in the other breast. Additionally, family history, genetic testing or MRI testing can also contribute to men choosing this procedure.

Men who opted for double mastectomies are usually white, younger and have private insurance. It must be noted that double mastectomy is a big operation and is associated with complications and difficult recovery. Therefore, before opting for this procedure, it is recommended that all men diagnosed with breast cancer look for advice  their doctor and discuss both the pros and cons of the procedure in order to make an informed decision.