Is Mastectomy Right for You? Weigh the Pros and Cons

Testing positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation puts you at high risk for breast cancer. Now, you have a big decision to make – should you get a mastectomy to reduce your risk, even though you are currently cancer-free? This decision is nowhere near as easy as deciding what to eat for lunch. A mastectomy will change your body and may alter how you see yourself. But on the one hand, it could save your life.

How do you weigh the pros and cons and determine if a mastectomy is right for you? There are several factors to consider with your doctors and loved ones. Your risk level, family history, and personal preferences all play a role. Moreover, while a mastectomy can reduce your risk by leaps and bounds, it does not ensure immunity from cancer.

Getting a mastectomy is a complex and personal choice. But with the right information and support, you can make the best decision for your situation. Here, we will walk through the key considerations to help determine if a mastectomy for breast cancer prevention could give you peace of mind and a better shot at a long, healthy life. The path ahead might be bumpy, but you do not have to go through this alone.


Understanding Mastectomy as a Preventive Measure

When breast cancer runs in your family, it’s normal to feel anxious about your risk and want to take action. For some high-risk women, mastectomy – surgical removal of one or both breasts – is one way to avoid the disease. But is it the right choice for you?


Weighing the Pros and Cons of Prophylactic Mastectomy

Mastectomy is an extreme preventive measure, but for some high-risk women, the reduced risk and peace of mind outweigh the difficulties. By diving deeper and understanding exactly what it entails, you can make an informed choice about your health.



  • Significantly lowers your breast cancer risk. According to the American Cancer Society,  preventive surgery reduces the chances of developing breast cancer by 90% or more. For women at very high risk, it can be lifesaving.
  • Reduces anxiety. For women at very high risk, a mastectomy can provide peace of mind that cancer is unlikely to strike.
  • Avoids radiation and chemotherapy. Pre-emptive surgery means avoiding conventional cancer treatments and their side effects.
  • Reconstruction is an option. If desired, breast reconstruction surgery can recreate the shape of your breasts and help you feel more at ease with your appearance.



  • It’s major surgery. Any operation comes with risks like infection, blood clots, or adverse reactions to anesthesia.
  • Recovery can be challenging. It will take 3 to 6 weeks for you to recover fully. During the initial recovery phase, you will experience pain, discomfort, scarring, and potential shock from losing one or both of your breasts. You will need time off work and normal activities to physically recover and emotionally adjust to the change.
  • Causes body image issues. Losing your breasts can be emotionally traumatic, impacting your body esteem, sexuality, and intimate relationships.
  • It does not guarantee a cancer-free lifetime. While mastectomy drastically reduces your risk, breast cancer can still develop in remaining breast tissues or lymph nodes. You will still need regular screening and monitoring.
  • It does not lower other cancer risks. Inheriting damaged copies of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes also raises your risk for ovarian cancer. A mastectomy only reduces breast cancer risk.

Further reading: Everything Women Must Know About Breast Cancer Risk Factors


Deciding if Mastectomy Is Right for You

Deciding whether mastectomy is the right choice for you is a big decision. Some things to consider:

  • Your risk level. If you have a high risk of developing breast cancer due to family history or genetic testing results, mastectomy may reduce your chances. For low to moderate risk, increased screenings may be enough.
  • Your breast size and density. Mastectomy may be a better option if you have very dense breast tissue or a large breast size, which can make screenings less effective. Removal of most breast tissue reduces the area where cancer can develop.
  • Your peace of mind. Some women choose to undergo a mastectomy to put their mind at ease. Knowing that your breast cancer risk is lower can bring a sense of calm. 
  • Reconstruction options. With today’s reconstructive techniques, including implants and natural tissue flaps, mastectomy does not necessarily mean losing your breast(s). Discuss reconstruction with a plastic surgeon to understand your options and any pros and cons.
  • Impact on your life. Consider how a mastectomy may affect the way you see yourself. If you already struggle with body image issues, having a single or double mastectomy may worsen your self-image. Speaking with a counselor or support group may help address concerns about body and sexuality.


High-Profile Cases: Christina Applegate and Angelina Jolie

Through the years, breast cancer and preventive surgery received more public attention due to well-known Hollywood actresses sharing their experiences. In 2008, Christina Applegate had a double mastectomy, bringing awareness to the procedure. In 2019, her character, Jen Harding, from the Netflix series Dead to Me, also mentioned getting a double mastectomy, because she did not want her kids to lose their mom to cancer like she did. In 2013, Angelina Jolie also had a double mastectomy. Both cases went with a preventive approach, seeking to remove cancerous cells and reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.


The Reality for Working-Class Women

While Applegate and Jolie have brought mastectomies into the spotlight, the reality is harsh for many working-class women. Applegate and Jolie earn millions of dollars a year and do not have nine-to-five jobs, making their mastectomies relatively affordable and easier to recover from. For the majority who earn less per annum and have hectic office schedules, the monetary and time constraints associated with such procedures make them less feasible prevention methods.

Role of Breast Self-Exams and Mammograms

Given that not everyone can afford mastectomy procedures, catching breast cancer early begins at home with monthly breast self-exams. Early detection is a game-changer, as breast cancer is most treatable in its initial stages. Also, mark your calendar for mammogram screenings every two years, especially if you have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation or other risk factors. These X-rays can pick up on abnormalities that self-exams miss.


Takeaway: Is Mastectomy a Good Preventive Measure Against Breast Cancer?

It is, but preventive mastectomy is not for everyone. You must weigh the pros and cons, assess your own risk factors, and evaluate your priorities.

Again, the choice is very personal. Do not feel pressured into mastectomy unless you feel fully informed and comfortable with the decision. Talk to your doctor to determine the best course of action for your situation. What’s important is reducing your risk and finding peace of mind.


When Breast Cancer Strikes

If you have breast cancer, New Hope Unlimited is here for you. Our team can guide you through this challenging time with the highest standards of alternative cancer care. Contact us now to schedule a consultation. We are ready to answer all questions about immunotherapy for breast cancer, expand your options, relieve your worries, and help you create a customized treatment plan based on your unique situation.

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