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Are Your Treatment Choices Influenced By Celebrities?

June 7th, 2016

Angelina Jolie, Rita Wilson, Joan Lunden...When celebrities are impacted by breast cancer it appears that the diagnosis and treatment become more newsworthy.  The reality is that research confirms the fact that breast cancer treatment choices are influenced by news stories about celebrities who are facing the disease.

If the power of the media wasn't evident enough, a review of news stories from 1992 to 2014 on breast cancer indicates that news reports specifically related to double, or bi-lateral, mastectomies appear to trend more than others.  

The question is: Do these news reports lead more women to have this type of procedure?

A double mastectomy may be considered as a preventative treatment option for a woman whose family members have also been afflicted with breast cancer, especially if it occurred before the age of 50 years. The discovery of a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation may also lead a breast specialist to offer this option.

More women without a genetic risk for breast cancer have opted for a double mastectomy. However, there is no evidence that survival rates improve for these women. These patients tend to choose this more aggressive option for peace of mind, a sense of being proactive and taking control of their circumstances, as well as a desire to never have to face an additional cancer diagnosis in the future.  A study published in the Annals of Surgery showed that half of the women who were found to have cancer in only one breast and no discovery of a BRCA gene mutation, were interested in removing their other breast as a preventative measure. Authors of the study noted that information from the news media  led many women to this decision; even before they had met with their breast surgeon.  

This trend continued to increase after 2004.  "BRCA1 and BRAC2 gene mutations only account for five to ten percent of all breast cancers," said Good Samaritan's Chair of the Breast Leadership Committee and breast surgeon Bradley Cohen, MD. "Unfortunately, every woman is at risk and needs to undergo careful surveillance and screening."  For reliable information on breast cancer, diagnosis and treatment options, women should consult with their physician, a clinical specialist or an accredited and trustworthy website such as the National Cancer Institute ( or the American Cancer Society (

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