Skip to Content

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Lee Health is starting to reschedule appointments, surgeries, and procedures that were delayed during the pandemic. You can be confident that we will provide the most exceptional care in the safest environment. Learn More

Understanding Bilateral Mastectomies - Oncology

Receiving a breast cancer diagnosis can be difficult--but doctors say there are treatment options that can provide hope. “There are two ways to manage breast cancers, you can either remove the tumor or remove the breast,” said Dr. Lea Blackwell, a breast surgeon on the medical staff of Lee Health. Under certain circumstances, patients with breast cancer can choose between having a mastectomy, which removes the entire breast, or a lumpectomy followed by radiation, which is a breast-conserving surgery. Both offer the same survival rate. “Mastectomies in my practice are about 30 percent of surgeries for management of breast cancer,” said Dr. Blackwell. But often, patients may opt for a bilateral mastectomy, which removes both breasts. “A bilateral mastectomy can be a little controversial because it’s a healthy breast that you’re removing. But there are a lot of reasons why women elect to have both breasts removed: one of them is symmetry, another is peace of mind,” she said. And while many patients believe that a bilateral mastectomy will significantly lower their risk for another breast cancer—doctors say, that’s not really the case. “If an individual has breast cancer in one breast then their risk of contralateral breast cancer is about .7 percent per year. If you ask a patient that had breast cancer, what do you think your risk is on getting breast cancer in the opposite breast, it’s usually around 75-80 percent, but really their risk is only about 15 percent,” said Dr. Blackwell. However, if patients have the breast cancer gene doctors may encourage them to consider having a bilateral mastectomy. “It does reduce the risk of having contralateral breast cancer, and it helps with symmetry, and then they don’t have to go for screening for that remaining breast,” she said. A personal decision that’s offered as a treatment option for patients diagnosed with breast cancer. View More Health Matters video segments at LeeHealth.org/Healthmatters/ Lee Health in Fort Myers, FL is the largest network of health care facilities in Southwest Florida and is highly respected for its expertise, innovation and quality of care. For more than 100 years, we’ve been providing our community with personalized preventative health services and primary care to highly specialized care services and robotic assisted surgeries. Lee Health - Caring People. Inspiring Care. Visit LeeHealth.org