"We found that the quality of life for women who chose to remove their healthy breast in addition to the other breast that had cancer was not that different from those who didn't," said Dr. Shelley Hwang
She's a breast surgeon and chief of breast surgery at Duke Cancer Institute at Duke University in Durham, N.C.
While those who had a prophylactic mastectomy and reconstruction surgery reported slightly higher satisfaction in how their breasts looked and felt, and somewhat higher measures of psychosocial well-being (such as feeling confident), the differences between the groups were small, Hwang
team surveyed nearly 4,000 women who had a mastectomy, including about 1,600 who had a prophylactic mastectomy.
However, having breast reconstruction had a greater impact on quality-of-life scores than prophylactic mastectomy alone, Hwang
About 80 percent of those who had prophylactic mastectomy had breast reconstruction surgery -- either immediate or delayed, the researchers said.
Women who had breast reconstruction reported greater sexual well-being.
They also had higher psychosocial well-being and higher satisfaction with their breasts' appearance than prophylactic mastectomy alone provided, the study found.
Over time, the differences between the two groups diminished even more, Hwang
Both groups had increases in the psychosocial well-being measures, even 10 years or more after treatment, the research showed.
For years, experts have known that having prophylactic mastectomy has little impact on reducing deaths among women diagnosed with cancer in only one breast, Hwang
For the general population, Hwang
said, the risk of getting cancer in the opposite breast is less than 5 percent.
The general population excludes those with genetic mutations that significantly increase their breast cancer risk, such as the BRCA 1 or 2 mutations, Hwang