Thanks for your post.
Some women, like yourself, wonder whether they should have their unaffected breast removed as well. It’s natural to be concerned about the risk of cancer developing in the other (contralateral) breast. But research has shown this is not usually necessary unless someone has a higher risk of developing breast cancer in the other breast. Women who may have a higher risk include those with an inherited altered gene or a strong family history of breast cancer.
Women often overestimate their risk of developing cancer in the other breast so, as Jaybro suggests, it might be an idea to discuss any concerns you have about this with your oncologist.
Following treatment you will have regular mammograms of the remaining breast. It’s also important to remain breast aware and report any changes you notice to your specialist team.
Here at Breast Cancer Care we offer a range of free supportive services that you might be interested in. This includes face to face support at a number of locations throughout the country.
Do call our free, confidential Helpline if you would like to talk this through or have any further questions. The number is 0808 800 6000.
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Breast Cancer Care Nurse
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I understand this idea of preventative action - get it all done in one go - and I’m sorry you’re facing this dilemma but it’s not that simple. I had a left mastectomy last October, with full axillary clearance, and 19 of the 21 lymph nodes were affected (but no evidence of spread beyond these) so I had 5 months of chemotherapy and 15 days of radiotherapy, as well as the 10 years of hormone therapy now and 6 x six-monthly zometa infusions. They found different kinds of invasive/aggressive cancers in my 2 lumps, as well as eruption in the skin. This last factor was extremely fortunate because my mammogram result 6 months earlier had been ‘clear’ (Huh!) so this was how we caught the bc at stage 2. I asked about my other breast and was told it was healthy and there was no reason why it should ever develop a cancer. I trusted the surgeon’s judgment at the time and I doubt anything could have survived the treatments I’ve had but it seems crazy not to rule out a possibility now with a genetic test, given my family history. Personally, I’d only opt for a second mastectomy if there were a high statistical risk and I’ve been told surgeons are reluctant to remove healthy breasts without good cause.
For your peace of mind, I’d say you should ask your oncologist about the risks to you as everyone’s cancer is different but chemotherapy isn’t selective (as you’ll find - it’s like using a steam roller to roll pastry, leaving havoc in its wake) so any rogue cells anywhere are going to get destroyed. I hope your chemotherapy and surgery go well for you. Take care.
First of all, I’m sorry that you’re having to go through any of this. I’m no expert but I was found to have DCIS in my right breast and after the first lumpectomy a 6mm invasive cancer was found so I had to have a second op to get a wider margin and a sentinel lymph node biopsy. Like you, the lymph node was clear and I got away with just having radiotherapy after and now Letrozole for the next 5-10 years.
I was also concerned about the other breast but was assured that nothing had been found in that during my mammogram. I would guess that both of your breasts were x-rayed (mammogram) or scanned initially so presumably nothing was found in the other one to suggest that any action was required on that side?
I have cancer in one breast , I have had a lumpectomy and had to have a further op to remove more tissue as not all margins were clear. My lymph nodes were clear. At second op the further tissue also had pre-cancerous cells and a small, 2.5 mm , cancerous lump. With this activity in one breast what is the likelihood that I have pre-cancerous cells and/or an undetected lump in the other breast? I am starting chemo shortly and a mastectomy after, is it unreasonable to ask for a double mastectomy?