Reframing the conversation about contralateral prophylactic mastectomy: Preparing women for postsurgical realities.


Conference Paper

OBJECTIVE: Women with unilateral, early-stage breast cancer and low genetic risk are increasingly opting for contralateral prophylactic mastectomy (CPM), a concerning trend because CPM offers few clinical benefits while increasing risks of surgical complications. Few qualitative studies have analyzed factors motivating this irreversible decision. Using qualitative methods, this study sought to understand women's decision making and the impact of CPM on self-confidence, sense of femininity, sexual intimacy, and peace of mind. METHODS: Women who had CPM within the last 10 years were recruited to participate in the study. We conducted a thematic analysis of the data. RESULTS: Forty-five women were interviewed. When making the decision for CPM, most had incomplete knowledge of potential negative outcomes. However, all believed CPM had more benefits than harms and would confer the most peace of mind and the fewest regrets should cancer return. They knew their contralateral breast cancer risk was low but were not persuaded by statistics. They wanted to do everything possible to reduce their risk of another breast cancer, even by a minimal amount, but most reported paying an unexpectedly high price for this small reduction in risk. Nevertheless, 41 of 45 reported that they would make the same decision again. CONCLUSIONS: These findings highlight an opportunity for physicians to reframe the conversation to focus on the patient experience of the tradeoffs of CPM rather than statistical odds of future cancers. Our findings suggest that more data may not dissuade women from CPM but may better prepare them for its outcomes.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Bloom, DL; Chapman, BM; Wheeler, SB; McGuire, KP; Lee, CN; Weinfurt, K; Rosenstein, DL; Plichta, JK; Jacobson Vann, JC; Hwang, ES

Published Date

  • February 2019

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 28 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 394 - 400

PubMed ID

  • 30500102

Pubmed Central ID

  • 30500102

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1099-1611

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1002/pon.4955

Conference Location

  • England