“Breast cancer becomes very emotional for people, and they view a breast differently than an arm or a required body part that you use every day,” said Sarah T. Hawley, an associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan. “Women feel like it’s a body part over which they totally have a choice, and they say, ‘I want to put this behind me — I don’t want to worry about it anymore.’ ”
The quote above is the last paragraph from a New York Times article published January 21st. I first read about it here in this blog
Preventative mastectomies under fire
And I must agree with “The Pink Underbelly” as my blood is boiling a bit.
I underwent a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy on March 5, 2012. I had been diagnosed with Cowden’s Syndrome, alongside my 8 year old daughter, just months before. I was presented, in January of 2012 with an article putting my lifetime breast cancer risk somewhere around 85%. Cowden’s Syndrome, as you all know – but I doubt the author of this article knew, is a rare genetic disorder with a 1 in 200,000 occurrence. It is a mutation on the PTEN (Tumor Suppressor) gene and causes benign and malignant tumors all over the body – with the hot spots being the breasts, uterus, and thyroid.
I made an informed decision to undergo that mastectomy. It was not a decision reached lightly. My mom is a BILATERAL breast cancer survivor, and even though she does not carry my genetic mutation, I will always believe that her decision for a complete mastectomy is the reason she is with us today – the reason she ever got to meet her grandchildren.
That doesn’t even get me started on the fact that my “prophylactic” mastectomy revealed DCIS – stage 1, a centimeter of cancer in the left breast. Yes, it was contained. No, it hadn’t spread. Yes, I was fortunate, and NO, it WAS NOT the breast that had seen 7 biopsies in the 12 years prior. This one had never been touched. And, the MRI weeks earlier did not pick up the DCIS. So, my informed decision. My smart surgeon. My gifted plastic surgeon. My husband’s support. The support of my boss. The sick days donated from a friend. My raw nerve. My desire to be there for my little girl for years and years to come. The Grace of God. All these things saved my life.
So, I get a little twisted when people infer, and imply that these are decisions made lightly. That women are just randomly having their breasts cut off. This was not a trip to Hawaii. This was not a walk in the park. This was major league, life altering, body changing surgery. There is not a woman I know, who makes this decision without intense scrutiny and research. And, thanks to this blog, and my online support group. I have “met” many of them.
This article says
“We are confronting almost an epidemic of prophylactic mastectomy,” said Dr. Isabelle Bedrosian, a surgical oncologist at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. “I think the medical community has taken notice. We don’t have data that say oncologically this is a necessity, so why are women making this choice?”
EPIDEMIC- affecting or tending to affect a disproportionately large number of individuals within a population, community, or region at the same time <typhoid was epidemic>
Why not ask us?
Why not ask those of us that have lost mothers and grandmothers and sisters to genetic mutations?
Why not ask those of us who have had countless mamorgrams, MRIs and biopsies, with “suspicious” pathology?
Why not ask us, who have done the research, or read the research on diseases you haven’t even heard of?
Why not ask those of us who, facing our imminent cancer risks, have made a choice to LIVE?
So the article says:
“You’re not going to find other organs that people cut out of their bodies because they’re worried about disease,” said the medical historian Dr. Barron H. Lerner, author of “The Breast Cancer Wars” (2001). “Because breast cancer is a disease that is so emotionally charged and gets so much attention, I think at times women feel almost obligated to be as proactive as possible — that’s the culture of breast cancer.”
Damned right Barron. Proactive. We have kids to raise. Spouses to celebrate life with. Memories to make. Tears to dry. Hands to hold. Lives to live.
Emotionally charged? You bet.
We’ll have some coffee.
Then I will tell you about my prophylactic hysterectomy. Reccomended by a top surgeon at NYU. Ten weeks after my mastectomy. Not an easy choice. Certainly not one made on emotion.
Logic. Try logic. And gratitude that the tools exist, and the surgeons exist that are willing to save our lives.
Don’t talk about my boobs until you have walked in my shoes!