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Am J Public Health. 1995 Jun;85(6):801-5.

The practice of prophylactic mastectomy: a survey of Maryland surgeons.

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Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Md, USA.



Bilateral prophylactic mastectomy is a drastic breast cancer preventive option for which indications are not standardized and efficacy has not been proven. To estimate the magnitude of this controversial practice, surgeons were surveyed on their recommendations about and performance of prophylactic mastectomy.


A cross-sectional survey was sent to general surgeons (n = 522), plastic surgeons (n = 80), and gynecologists (n = 801) licensed to practice in Maryland in 1992. Proportions responding were 41.9%, 66.3%, and 54.9%, respectively. In addition, there were 30 respondents who identified "other" as their specialty. The respondents were asked about the role of bilateral prophylactic mastectomy and the number of times they had recommended and performed it in a year.


Seven hundred forty-two surgeons responded (51.8%). More plastic surgeons (84.6%) than general surgeons (47.0%) and gynecologists (38.3%) agreed that bilateral prophylactic mastectomy has a role in the care of high-risk women. Eighty-one percent of plastic surgeons had recommended the procedure, compared with 38.8% of general surgeons and 17.7% of gynecologists.


Indications and practice patterns reveal heterogeneity of medical opinion and practice of prophylactic mastectomy. This study raises the need for better evaluation of the efficacy and appropriateness of prophylactic mastectomy.

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