Today on Dr. Drew they had a panel of doctors talking about Guiliana Rancic's choice to get a double mastectomy to avoid "looking over my shoulder for the rest of my life". It is also on the heels of Wanda Sikes, the Black comedian having the same procedure for her micro-cancer, or stage zero breast cancer, for the same reason; she did not want to have breast cancer. She says she has a "Zero % chance of getting it again".
The trend in the media has been to report these procedures as "preventative" measures. But what they have not said is that there is no such thing as 0% chance of getting breast cancer, even without breasts. Your breast tissue extends to your collar bone and across the pectoral and lat muscles. There is really no way to remove every breast tissue cell from the body. Of course, with less area of breast tissue, there are less chances of recurrence--but not zero % chance, which is what these women keep saying. It bugs me because it is inaccurate and wrong information. There is always breast cell tissue left after a mastectomy. And as some of us know from experience, it only takes one cell to go nuts and grow and make a tumor. It is a hard pill to swallow.
These stories are not reporting about the nerve damage that mastectomy causes. They expounded the "advances in reconstructive surgery", which of course is better than it was. But they forget to mention the scars, and scar tissue, implant rejection, and lymphadema that may occur after mastectomy and reconstruction. However, they do mention how radiation thickens the skin. Somehow, the message that mastectomy is better is being conveyed in these stories. I am here to say that if you get the choice, and you choose one or the other, feel that your choice is yours and yours alone--that no matter which celebrity gets breast cancer and opts for a radical procedure for her own "peace of mind", that one road is not better than the other in terms of survival--unless your genes say so- and your own doctors say so.
I was also faced with the "choice" of double mastectomy or lumpectomy with radiation. They give only some people this choice depending on your type and stage of cancer. I feel like it was a no brainer for me. I had the lumpectomy with radiation and chemotherapy. This was my path and I took it. After comparing survival rates and no real better chances at avoiding recurrence without breasts, I chose to keep mine. Some friends thought a chance to have "free" breast implants was a great possibility! "Wow! Why not! Go BIG and get something out of this ridiculous cancer crap", and at first seemed like an even deal. But then, I did my research.
A big part of making my choice was learning about the mastectomy procedure, recovery time, and how much nerve damage and chronic pain some people have across the chest and back area. Also, no one really tells you that implants (saline or silicone) do not warm at the same rate as the body, and do not weight the same as real tissue. Some people that have chosen larger implants have more problems with this body temperature issue, and others feel the weight of implants makes them feel uneven. Some mastectomies can be "nipple sparring" but then become necrotic. Others are followed by several procedures because the scar tissue may pucker and pull the breast in the wrong direction, changing the shape of the breast, requiring corrective surgeries. Some times the body just rejects the implant for unknown reasons. These little details are left out of the story. The story goes, "I had breast cancer, I had a mastectomy, and got new breasts." No one tells you that there are complications that can go on and on for many months after and sometimes years. It seems like too much to go through if you have the choice of keeping your breasts and having the same survival rate.