Talk about the devil’s choice. When they discover cancer in your breast, not only do you get to choose from among such not-fun items as surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, but you get to decide whether you want to remove the healthy breast as a precaution.
I’ve talked before about how much I like The New York Times “Well” blog. On March 8, they posted an excellent story on this provocative topic, citing several recent studies. All of the research was interesting, but what held my attention was the jump in the number of women with Stage 0 cancer or precancer who chose the bilateral mastectomy. While the percentage is low (5.2 percent), it more than doubled in six years.
I was one of 219 people who commented, and our comments were as individual as snowflakes. Many women, like me, had stage 0 ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS. Each of us made her choice for her own reasons. In my case, I was really hanging my hat on breast-conserving surgery and radiation until two attempts at breast-conserving surgery didn’t clear out all the bad cells. (And darned if my breast tissue wasn’t still harboring some stubborn DCIS after the mastectomy. I have no doubt I made the right choice.)
Many of the women who commented chose the bilateral mastectomy and have no regrets. For them, the peace of mind was worth it. For me, the bilateral mastectomy was never a consideration, although as I mentioned in an earlier post my husband Bruce asked if I would think about it so I’d never have to go through this again. But the way I see it, I”m basically back at square one and I’m perfectly comfortable there. Others see it differently, and it’s up to each of us to decide what our individual risk tolerance and comfort level is. No one else can make that choice for you, and no one should pass judgment on your decision. If you’re facing that choice as you read this, you have my best regards.