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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Risk Reduction Surgery

I listened to a piece on NPR a couple of weeks ago about women having bilateral mastectomies with increasing frequency when only one breast is affected with breast cancer.  The health care professionals interviewed were alarmed by the trend because there is no survival advantage to this approach, and since it is major surgery, why would women choose this option.  The piece touched briefly on what would be a motivator for me, which would be that I would be reducing my risk of having to have chemotherapy again, which is a not insignificant consideration.  The physicians commented that a new cancer in the other breast is not likely, and if it were to occur, it would be caught early and is therefore survivable.  Great, but survival is not the only thing going on here (although it is obviously very important).  The fear of it coming back, and having to undergo chemotherapy again would be overwhelming for me.  Not to mention that a second go round with chemo carries increased secondary cancer risks that we really don't know that much about.  The ability to quantify the quality of the life one leads is very far behind the ability to quantify the quantity of life we have, and that is an important gap to recognize and think about.

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