The real culprits behind the dangerous double mastectomy boom

It can be fun to imitate our favorite celebrities’ hair styles – or the latest fashion they wore on the red carpet.

But when we start copying celebrities’ medical decisions, we could be setting ourselves up for disaster.

Three years ago, I warned you about something doctors were calling the “Angelina Jolie Effect.”

After the famous actress got a so-called “preventative” double mastectomy, lots of women with breast cancer followed suit – whether they actually needed the surgery or not.

Now a new study out of the University of Michigan has proven that the problem is even worse than anyone realized.

And the very surgeons who could put an end to the madness aren’t doing a thing about it.

Scalpels at the ready

Two major studies have found that most women who get elective double mastectomies – where they remove a second, healthy breast – don’t benefit at all.

And the painful, life-changing surgery won’t add a day to our lives.

But Michigan researchers say that some women and their surgeons aren’t taking their cues from the latest science – they’re getting their advice from Hollywood.

Michigan researchers looked at 20 cases where famous celebrities were diagnosed with breast cancer between 2000 and 2012. Aside from Angelina Jolie, there have been lots of high-profile breast cancer cases involving stars like Christina Applegate and Kathy Bates.

Four of these celebrities had double mastectomies – and researchers found that all the media coverage coincided with a big spike in women opting for the surgery.

In fact, the number of women who are having surgery to remove healthy breasts has tripled in the last decade.

All the media coverage “makes people think this is the treatment for breast cancer,” said study author Dr. Michael Sabel.

Sabel and his colleagues are calling on the press to report more responsibly on these surgeries – and to make clear that the risks often far outweigh the benefits.

Responsible media reporting? Well, it’s a start – but good luck with that.

I mean, let’s put the lion’s share of the blame where it really belongs – with the surgeons who should be advising women against surgeries they don’t need, and should be refusing to perform them.

Go to a surgeon and tell him you want a perfectly good arm of leg cut off, and he’ll probably have you committed! But ask to have a healthy breast removed, and these guys can’t whip out their scalpels fast enough.

As one breast surgeon told Time magazine, “It’s not my job to say that their decision is wrong.”

Excuse me? Are you kidding? It is absolutely a surgeon’s job to tell us if we’re asking for something that’s medically unnecessary – or even harmful.

The Time article also stated (for the 100th time) that women are “massively overtreated” with a long menu of breast-cancer-therapy options.

And that one is absolutely true. It looks like doctors, oncologists, surgeons, radiologists, and others are driving breast cancer overtreatment like it’s their own private gravy train.

The bottom line is, very few women are actual candidates to get a prevention benefit from a double mastectomy.

And that’s a message that both patients and their surgeons need to get loud and clear, no matter what they’re hearing from Hollywood or the media.

Sources:
“Celebrity cases may help spur rise in double mastectomies” HealthDay, April 22, 2016, nlm.nih.gov