In spite of the recent trend of undergoing double mastectomy to prevent breast cancer in women, a new study suggests that single mastectomy may already be enough for early-stage cancer.
This was confirmed by a team of researchers led by Dr. Nicolas Ajkay of the University of Louisville School of Medicine in Kentucky. In the study presented during the 2015 Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons, the research team looked into the benefits and disadvantages of single (or unilateral) mastectomy and double mastectomy for non-hereditary breast cancer in its early stage. The study focused on cases wherein the cancer cells were found on only one breast. Data from earlier studies on mastectomy were cross-referenced with the quality-adjusted life years (QALYs), a parameter that measures the quality of life of a person.
Results revealed that in a span of 20 years, patients who underwent single mastectomy were found to have 0.21 more QALYs than those who had both of their breasts removed. The QALY figure is equivalent to an additional 3 months of healthy life. Dr. Ajkay attributed the lower QALYs in double mastectomy patients to “struggling with surgical complications of reconstruction, lost work productivity and significant emotional hardship,” as reported in a news item.
In terms of costs (including regular screenings for 20 years), the average overall costs for single mastectomy was $13,525. In contrast, double mastectomy procedures cost $18,577 over a 20-year period. “Even under worst-case scenarios, we found that costs and quality of life were superior with unilateral mastectomy. With our study results, I can counsel patients that they may incur a higher cost over their lifetime with a lower quality of life for several months if they choose (double mastectomy),” Dr. Ajkay said.