Study: More breast cancer patients removing unaffected breast

Even though their tumors may be restricted to one breast, a growing number of women undergoing mastectomies are asking surgeons to remove their healthy breast as well in an effort to reduce their risk of further episodes. In 1998, 4.2 percent of women had a double mastectomy that included a healthy breast; by 2003, however, the share of women doing this had climbed to 11 percent.

Now, a new study in the journal Cancer has taken on the issue, with researchers hoping to help address women's fears on the subject. According to the study, which tracked women from 2000 to 2007, women with cancer in one breast do have a higher risk of developing tumors in the other. This is particularly true if a woman has had more than one tumor in the original breast, if the tumor multiplied throughout the breast into seed-like formations, and if a woman has a high score on the assessment tool known as the Gail model.

Critics of the research, meanwhile, note that women with breast cancer can reduce their risk of re-occurrence with hormones or chemotherapy, and that moreover, there's no evidence that this surgery reduces mortality.

To learn more about this study:
- read this USA Today piece