Kathy Bates Undergoes Bilateral Mastectomy

I don’t miss my breasts as much as I miss Harry’s Law. đŸ˜‰

So tweeted Academy Award winning actress Kathy Bates when she announced today that she had recently undergone bilateral mastectomies for breast cancer 2 months ago.

The 64-year-old actress told People magazine:

After much consideration, I underwent a double mastectomy. Luckily, I don’t have to undergo radiation or chemo. My family calls me Kat because I always land on my feet and thankfully this is no exception.

My doctors have assured me I’m going to be around for a long time. I’m looking forward to getting back to work doing what I love to do.

Bates is no stranger to battling cancer. In March she revealed that she is an ovarian cancer survivor. She was diagnosed with the disease in 2003. Although she initially decided to keep her diagnosis secret, she changed her mind in 2008 and was featured in a number of videos for the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance.

Ms. Bates is the latest celebrity to have to make the difficult decision between having a lumpectomy or bilateral mastectomy. Christina Applegate and Guiliana Rancic are other women who decided to have the bigger procedure.

Applegate has a strong family history of breast cancer. She also tested positive for the BRCA1 gene, a gene which gave her an increased of recurrent breast cancer.

Rancic, who was diagnosed as having breast cancer while being evaluated for infertility, says she opted for the mastectomy because she did not want treatment to interfere with her attempts to have an child or to worry about getting breast cancer down the road:

In the end, all it came down to was just choosing to live and not looking over my shoulder for the rest of my life.

Surgical Treatments for Breast Cancer

Most patients with breast cancer have surgery to remove the cancer from the breast. Some of the lymph nodes under the arm are usually taken out and looked at under a microscope to see if they contain cancer cells.

Breast-conserving surgery, an operation to remove the cancer but not the breast itself, includes the following:

  • Lumpectomy: Surgery to remove a tumor (lump) and a small amount of normal tissue around it.
  • Partial mastectomy: Surgery to remove the part of the breast that has cancer and some normal tissue around it. The lining over the chest muscles below the cancer may also be removed. This procedure is also called a segmental mastectomy.

Patients who are treated with breast-conserving surgery may also have some of the lymph nodes under the arm removed for biopsy. This procedure is called lymph node dissection. It may be done at the same time as the breast-conserving surgery or after. Lymph node dissection is done through a separate incision.

Other types of surgery include the following:

  • Total mastectomy: Surgery to remove the whole breast that has cancer. This procedure is also called a simple mastectomy. Some of the lymph nodes under the arm may be removed for biopsy at the same time as the breast surgery or after. This is done through a separate incision.
  • Modified radical mastectomy: Surgery to remove the whole breast that has cancer, many of the lymph nodes under the arm, the lining over the chest muscles, and sometimes, part of the chest wall muscles.



Modified radical mastectomy. The drawing on the left shows the removal of the breast, most or all of the lymph nodes under the arm, the lining over the chest muscles and sometimes part of the chest wall muscles. The drawing on the right shows a cross-section of the breast including the chest wall (ribs and muscle), fatty tissue, and the tumor.


Chemotherapy may be given before surgery to remove the tumor. When given before surgery, chemotherapy will shrink the tumor and reduce the amount of tissue that needs to be removed during surgery. Treatment given before surgery is called neoadjuvant therapy.

Even if the doctor removes all the cancer that can be seen at the time of the surgery, some patients may be given radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or hormone therapy after surgery to kill any cancer cells that are left. Treatment given after the surgery, to lower the risk that the cancer will come back, is called adjuvant therapy.

If a patient is going to have a mastectomy, breast reconstruction (surgery to rebuild a breast’s shape after a mastectomy) may be considered. Breast reconstruction may be done at the time of the mastectomy or at a future time.

The reconstructed breast may be made with the patient’s own (nonbreast) tissue or by using implants filled with saline or silicone gel.

Source: National Cancer Institute


Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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