On Choosing Radical Cancer Surgery (Elective Double Mastectomy in Today's Washington Post)
An article in today's Washington Post, "Choosing Radical Cancer Surgery," focuses on the increasing predilection of women with breast cancer to have a mastectomy, rather than a lumpectomy; or a double mastectomy, rather than a single. This opting for more invasive, radical surgery, when health-care professionals are recommending far less surgery, has increased sharply in recent years. And that has some experts concerned.
This is a potentially dangerous trend. More surgery is always more dangerous than less; the more hours you spend under anesthesia, the more stress you put on your body. The more cuts you make, the deeper you go, the more chance for infection, for things going wrong. Why are women choosing to go backwards, towards the "bad old days" of scarring radical mastectomy, when we've made so much progress towards minimalist surgery?
Because they're scared, and make emotional decisions. Because reconstruction is a viable option, and one many take advantage of. And because, sadly, women are often misinformed about how much advantage additional surgery will give them in lowering their risk of recurrence-and death. I wrote about this subject last fall; since it's now surfaced in the national media, it's worth going over it again.