Saturday, December 8, 2007

mastectomies, not a thing of the past ...

The thing that bothers and surprises me is how quickly and definitively my own breast cancer was deemed a case that warranted mastectomy. I mean, this is 2007. I thought that advances had been made so that options were available for women with breast cancer that would preserve the breast, and that mastectomies were becoming a thing of the past.

I was talking today with my cousin’s husband, who is a doctor in Arizona and an expert on breast disease. It seems that with MRIs, more and more small, previously undetected, breast cancers are discovered. Twenty years ago, the site of my 2nd site of cancer cells would never have been found. I would have had a lumpectomy and then radiation. Would the radiation have killed the 2nd small site? Who knows? Maybe.

So it seems that now with the super-sensitive diagnostic testing, more 2nd cancer sites are discovered. And the protocol, at this point, is that if 2 primary cancers are detected in the same breast, mastectomy is the answer – no matter how small the cancers are.

Because more 2nd cancers are detected, more mastectomies are being done than before. Is this "progress" saving lives, or just generating more surgical business?

It seems like overkill to me. There must be a way to remove small cancers on the same breast without having to remove the whole breast. If we are going to detect earlier and smaller stage cancers, there must be a way to treat them without surgery. However my cousin's husband said that, in this day, I would have a hard time finding a doctor who would risk it.

And then there are the women in my breast cancer support group who elected to remove their healthy breast, and who had mastectomies when only a lumpectomy was required. Perhaps I don't know enough about cancer.