Social Network, Surgeon, and Media Influence on the Decision to Undergo Contralateral Prophylactic Mastectomy

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Abstract

Objectives:

The rate of contralateral prophylactic mastectomy (CPM) has risen sharply in the past decade. The current study was designed to examine social network, surgeon, and media influence on patients’ CPM decision-making, examining not only who influenced the decision, and to what extent, but also the type of influence exerted.

Methods:

Patients (N=113) who underwent CPM at 4 Indiana University–affiliated hospitals between 2008 and 2012 completed structured telephone interviews in 2013. Questions addressed the involvement and influence of the social network (family, friends, and nonsurgeon health professionals), surgeon, and media on the CPM decision.

Results:

Spouses, children, family, friends, and health professionals were reported as exerting a meaningful degree of influence on patients’ decisions, largely in ways that were positive or neutral toward CPM. Most surgeons were regarded as providing options rather than encouraging or discouraging CPM. Media influence was present, but limited.

Conclusions:

Patients who choose CPM do so with influence and support from members of their social networks. Reversing the increasing choice of CPM will require educating these influential others, which can be accomplished by encouraging patients to include them in clinical consultations, and by providing patients with educational materials that can be shared with their social networks. Surgeons need to be perceived as having an opinion, specifically that CPM should be reserved for those patients for whom it is medically indicated.

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