(NBC News) A growing number of young breast cancer patients are choosing to have major preventive surgery on the off chance it will ward off future cancers and extend their lives.
But experts say there's no strong evidence it works.
"Women want to do everything they can but taking off the other breast probably is not going to make a difference and it's a pretty drastic procedure for a person who is young, healthy and has a long time to live, said " Dr. Ann Partridge, of Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Partridge and colleagues, explored reasons why women choose to have the surgery. known as contra-lateral prophylactic mastectomy.
The overwhelming majority wanted peace of mind to prevent new cancers and improve their survival.
But doctors say there is very little evidence that the surgery will do either for the average woman diagnosed with early stage breast cancer.
"The most likely outcome for a woman who's got early stage breast cancer is that she will never have breast cancer again, period," Dr. Isabelle Bedrosian of the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas..
The risk for developing a new cancer in the healthy breast is about a half, to one-percent a year over 5 years among average risk women without a known genetic predisposition for breast cancer.
A third of the study participants said surgical side effects of removing the healthy breast were worse than they thought they'd be but the overwhelming majority said that for peace of mind they would do it again.
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