Prophylactic Mastectomy Satisfactory to Majority of Patients

University of Pennsylvania Cancer Center
Last Modified: May 16, 1999

A recent study has found that the majority of women at increased risk for breast cancer who elected prophylactic mastectomy as a preventive measure were satisfied with the procedure. Marlene Frost, RN, PhD, and colleagues found that of women who were mailed questionnaires following the procedure, 38 percent were satsifed and 31 percent were very satisfied with the prophylactic mastectomy.

Prophylactic mastectomy was found to be 90 percent effective in reducing breast cancer risk in a Mayo Clinic study published in the January 14 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine. Few data were available, however, regarding women's satisfaction and psychological and social function following the procedure.

In this study, 609 women known to be alive of the original 639 in the prophylactic mastectomy study were mailed questonnaires consisting of ordinal scales and open-ended questions to obtain information regarding reasons for prophylactic mastectomy, perceived risk of breast cancer, satisfaction with prophylactic mastectomy, self-esteem, body image, feelings of femininity, sexual relationships, emotional concerns about developing breast cancer, stress and emotional stability. 572 women, or 94 percent, responded. The most striking response wasw that 74 percent of the women reported a diminished level of emotional concern about developing breast cancer.

These findings are signifcant in that they provide needed social and psychological information for women considering a prophylactic mastectomy, enabling them to make more informed decisions about the procedure.