Cochrane Summaries

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Women should be aware of their true risk of developing breast cancer and the limitations of current evidence when considering prophylactic mastectomy

Lostumbo L, Carbine NE, Wallace J
Published Online: 
10 November 2010

Surgically removing both breasts to prevent breast cancer (bilateral prophylactic mastectomy or BPM) may reduce the incidence of breast cancer and improve survival in women with high breast cancer risk, but the studies reviewed have methodological limitations. After BPM, most women are satisfied with their decision, but less satisfied with cosmetic results and body image. Many procedures required additional surgeries. Most women experience reduced cancer worry, but because they may overestimate their breast cancer risk, they need to understand their true risk if considering BPM. In women who have had cancer in one breast (and thus are at higher risk of developing a primary cancer in the other) removing the other breast (contralateral prophylactic mastectomy or CPM) may reduce the incidence of cancer in that other breast, but there is insufficient evidence that this improves survival.

This record should be cited as: 
Lostumbo L, Carbine NE, Wallace J. Prophylactic mastectomy for the prevention of breast cancer. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2010, Issue 11. Art. No.: CD002748. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD002748.pub3
Assessed as up to date: 
14 June 2006
Health topics: