Saturday, March 16, 2013

Are we overdoing it?

More women are opting for double mastectomies, even if they do not have cancer in both breasts. Here are the numbers:

"The rate for women choosing to remove both breasts when only one has cancer jumped from 6.7% in 1997 to 24% in 2005,..."

"About 70% of women in the United States who have both breasts removed after a cancer diagnosis don't have a proven medical reason for undergoing the procedure,..."

So why are we doing this? Lots of reasons:
  • Implants have fewer problems than in the past.
  • Plastic surgery has had many advances.
  • We want it now mentality.
  • The overly hyped awareness of breast cancer
If we look at these last two reasons, they may be the root of all the reasons. In the past decade or so, we have been accustomed to the instant gratification or instant problem solving. Amazon started bringing us our purchases overnight. Problems are more easily solved. We can find information instantly so we want to fix things instantly as well.

Pinkification has also caused more awareness and availability of information.

"A growing awareness of breast cancer survivorship makes undergoing mastectomy not as foreign or frightening as perhaps it once was. An online search shows a seemingly limitless number of breast cancer support groups, with a growing collection dedicated to women considering preventive surgery.

Dr. Mark Sultan, chief of the division of plastic and reconstructive surgery at St. Luke's/Roosevelt and Beth Israel Medical Centers in New York, said he's seen a 20% increase in five years of high-risk, yet cancer-free women coming to his office seeking mastectomies.

These patients often arrive telling him what kind of surgery they want because they've read about certain procedures online, and in many cases, they've viewed hundreds of before-and-after photos as well."

These are examples of how the world of medicine and being a patient is changing. But maybe we are overdoing it. A double mastectomy is not a minor surgery. I have heard of women being in surgery for 10 or 12 hours with multiple surgeons and months of recovery. Never mind the problems of lymphedema and other risks in the future. 

I think I would prefer to keep my body as intact as possible if I possibly can.


Anonymous said...

I chose a double mastectomy because I was somewhere between an E and F cup. I would have even seriously listing to one side without a prosthesis. My reconstruction failed and I am now happy with two prostheses or none!

Anonymous said...

there are far far fewer prophylatic mastectomies in canada and other countries because insurance will not pay for major surgery that is really prompted by anxiety. without reconstruction I doubt that most of these women would go this route. would I? Yes. Just being real. anxiety robs us of enjoying life and it and the media and the drumbeat of the pinkdom have scared the shit out of most of us.

ps. the word verification sucks. please consider just moderating comments...

lisa said...

I haven't had to make this decision but if I did - and judging by the decision I DID have to make - part of my thinking would factor in future down time and the need to be done and over with it once and for all. Probably more for my career than even for my general well being. The anxiety factor, however, is not insignificant. It is debilitating.

Interesting the point about fewer prophylactic mastectomies in Canada and other countries. Tho I did read that the rate of re-operation after lumpectomy is rather high, so I wonder how cost saving this is.

For me I would need a confirmed cancer diagnosis to go this route, not just family history.

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