What is Preventive Radical Mastectomy?

Page content

Advances in chemical therapies reduce the need for disfiguring operations and increase the potential for full recovery. Still, there is an increasing trend as the battles with breast cancer become more of a topic of media attention where women who have a family history of breast cancer are electing to undergo a double radical mastectomy as a preventative measure.

What Is Preventive Radical Mastectomy?

Also called prophylactic mastectomy, radical mastectomy is a complete removal of the breast and nipple. In studies of women who are at high risk for breast cancer, a preventive radical mastectomy reduces the chances of contracting breast cancer by at least 90%.

For the women who elect to have both breasts removed in a double preventive radical mastectomy, reconstruction can be done at the same time. Reconstruction at the time of mastectomy reduces the recovery time by preventing the need to schedule follow up surgeries. During the reconstructive portion of the surgery, the surgeon may use synthetic implants and skin grafts from other parts of the body to reconstruct the removed breast areas.

Support of Women Who Elect Preventive Radical Mastectomy

Although the prospect of disfiguring surgery is horrifying to most women, the brave women who elect preventive radical mastectomy have chosen a path to a potentially cancer free life. These women, with the backing of many support groups are being praised for their decision to forgo superficial beauty in exchange for a lifetime of good health. In these cases, there is a long family history of malignant breast cancer for which the prognosis is very poor. Typically, in cases where women elect preventive radical mastectomy they have had several family member die of breast cancer at a young age.

Costs Associated with Preventive Radical Mastectomy

Unfortunately, one of the major drawbacks to preventive radical mastectomy is its cost. Most insurance companies will not cover any portion of the surgery, as it is considered elective surgery until a diagnosis of breast cancer is issued. The cost for a double preventive radical mastectomy can easily top $15,000 for the surgery alone. As public pressure increases, health insurance companies are beginning to investigate the long-term savings potential of paying for radical mastectomy as a preventative procedure, when compared to probable costs of inevitable cancer treatment. Until these decisions are made in favor of the patient, the cost of the procedure is the biggest hurdle for the women who have decided to undergo preventive radical mastectomy.


WebMD.com from the article Types of Mastectomy: Preventive, Partial, and Radical

Time.com from the article Cover Story Condition: Critical