When most healthy women consider their risk of getting breast cancer, they rarely view it as an immediate threat. Melanie Testa used to be one of those women — until she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in January 2011. “I was frightened, I was afraid,” she recalls. “I sort of went on emotional shutdown soon after. … But you know, just like anything else in life, you pick up the pieces, you figure out what you need to do, and you move on to your next step.”
For a growing number of women, that next step involves bilateral mastectomy (or removing both breasts — even though cancer almost always affects just one). “[The number of] bilateral mastectomies have been going up in every report that I’ve seen,” says Neil Fine, M.D., a plastic surgeon in private practice with Northwestern Specialists in Plastic Surgery in Chicago.