In a February blog post, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) posed and answered some serious questions about breast cancer treatment and national trends.

The post noted that sometimes researchers don’t ask simple questions and data collected is overlooked. That was the case when AHRQ was asked about trends relating to mastectomies and double mastectomies. 

Upon closer examination of the data in AHRQ’s Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, a group of databases containing the largest collection of U.S. longitudinal hospital care data available, the agency released a statistical brief, “Trends in Bilateral and Unilateral Mastectomies in Hospital Inpatient and Ambulatory Settings, 2005–2013.” The data revealed that women diagnosed with breast cancer are undergoing mastectomies at a much higher rate—increasing 36% between 2005 and 2013. The number includes bilateral mastectomies tripling from previous rates. However, no noted change occurred in breast cancer rates during this time period. 

The data also showed that women who received double mastectomies were younger on average, and hospital-based ambulatory surgery settings had a larger increase by 2013. Treatment options and recovery alternatives are discussed in the brief and blog post.