Women Are Being Scared Into Traumatic Breast Cancer Treatments They Don't Actually Need

Despite its shiny pink public facade, breast cancer is an ugly disease that often leaves its victims disfigured. But at least women who undergo preventative double mastectomies, perhaps the most aggressive response to the disease, can rest assured that they've for sure prevented a recurrence of The Big C, right? RIGHT?

A new study from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center has found that in 7 out of 10 cases, women who opt to have both of their breasts removed in an effort to prevent recurrence of cancer wouldn't actually get cancer again, which means that women endure the trauma and expense of losing their breasts to prevent recurrence of a disease that won't ever happen. It's like a totally fucked up Gift of the Magi.

Researchers tracked female breast cancer patients who opted to remove both breasts rather than risk the reappearance of tumors and found that recovery from the risky procedure was extremely painful and often took years. Women who opt to have both breasts remove often return home with drainage tubes attached to their bodies and put themselves at risk for infection. Further, the sheer amount of tissue damaged in breast removal necessitates a long, drawn out recovery time.

For some women, preventative double mastectomies make sense — women with specific gene mutations and family histories that basically guarantee they'll get cancer again. But for most women — 70% of those studied — researchers say an absence of gene mutation and close family history meant that all that trauma they put themselves through was unnecessary.

This research seems to dovetail with other recent breast cancer treatment research that has found that overdiagnosis and overtreatment of breast cancer in the US has subjected 1.3 million women to unnecessary, traumatic, and expensive procedures in an effort to "cure" them.

The doctors' findings will be presented at a conference on Friday.

[Detroit Free Press]