Total Mastectomy with Reconstruction is a Popular Choice for Women with Breast Cancer

Beth Brophy Health Guide
  • One of the worries breast cancer patients face is the possibility that they will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer, which is much harder to overcome. From 1995 to 2000, 44 percent of patients with ovarian cancer survived five years, compared to 88 percent with breast cancer. Finally, it looks like there may be a breakthrough on the ovarian cancer front. A new study finds that a treatment for women with advanced ovarian cancer that pumps cancer drugs directly into the abdominal cavity can extend a woman’s life for 16 months or more. But the procedure is far from painless — the bad news is that the life-extending treatment causes severe side effects, and fewer than half of the patients were able to finish the full treatment.
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    Last week, the New York Times reported on women who elected to have one or both breasts removed after discovering early or noninvasive cancer in only one breast. According to the article, “total mastectomy with reconstruction is becoming an increasingly popular choice among women with breast cancer and among those with an unusually high risk of developing it.” The somewhat elective procedure seems to be a growing trend — identified by media outlets and featured on television dramas such as Grey’s Anatomy — and many people find it shocking that women would voluntarily choose to remove a breast before it is absolutely medically necessary.

    I don’t think anyone should judge another person’s medical decisions. No matter how painful or unnecessary a particular treatment may seem to the rest of us, it’s a personal choice that involves weighing many factors: how much surgery are you comfortable with vs. how much anxiety and fear of getting cancer later do you want to live with vs. cosmetic results. While the trend toward letting patients make their own decisions rather than doctors dictating treatment from on high is a positive one, it puts a lot of responsibility on the patient. Some of the choices are excruciating, so I don’t think anyone should second-guess whatever decisions are made.

Published On: January 06, 2006