Cancer is a frightening disease. From its seemingly unpredictable appearance in some people to its terrifying prevalence in some families, it is diagnosis no patient wants to receive. Yet it is better to be diagnosed early when the disease may be limited and removal of the tissue, with additional treatment, holds the greatest likelihood of success.
Misdiagnosis is the fear of every woman. That a doctor or radiologist will miss the lump or shadow on the X-ray and that they will lose more than their breast, but could lose their life. At the early stages of a diagnosis, research shows that a lumpectomy is as effective as a mastectomy. But many women are opting for this more radical approach.
And because of the complexity and size of the operation, a mastectomy or even a double mastectomy carries additional risks. Perhaps not as scary as the risk of cancer, but the complications are not insignificant, and include bleeding, infection from the skin graft, bruising and fluid accumulation.
Some women even opt for removal of a healthy breast when cancer has only been detected in one. The recent study found that whether they have a mastectomy and breast reconstruction or just a lumpectomy combined with radiation, the chances of the cancer reoccurring were about the same.
Given that removal and reconstruction averages more than five times the cost of the lumpectomy, it seems likely doctors and insurers may have conflicting views on which procedure a woman should choose.
For any woman facing this daunting decision, a careful and thoughtful discussion with their doctor seems essential.
Source: npr.com, "Mastectomy No Better Than Lumpectomy For Early Breast Cancer," Patti Neighmond, December 11, 2015