Because Mastectomies should kill worries, not feelings

October 20, 2017 Cancer Hub 10497 Views


In a gender discriminated world, women have always been under pressure to look good. And hair, complexion, and breasts are attributes of feminine grace and charm. Since time immemorial, women have had to do torturous corsets or attire that would stump growth. They had to go through all this for the sake of fitting into the prevailing stereotypical concept of beauty.

When it comes to amputating the breast like in a mastectomy, pain, chemotherapy and several personal reasons factor in beside the cultural norms dinned into our collective psyche. Imagine having to wake up to a scar where your breast had once been.  Cancer truly tests the courage of women.

Some Frequently Asked Questions

What then are the pros and cons of a radical mastectomy? Why do women not prefer a lumpectomy were only sections of the breast (a part with the tumor) are removed and not the entire breast? Is it fear of recurrence that makes women inclined towards mastectomy? If cancer has affected only one breast, then is there really a need to remove the other one too? Are doctors likely to recommend mastectomy to older women? Or is this something to do with old-fashioned thinking, of senior medical practitioners?

In the words of a longtime sufferer, 42-year-old Reena Lal from Kanpur. “You don’t want to go through the radiation again. So if you feel that chances of recurrence are high, you want to be around for your children….” Her voice breaks off. In between sobs, she reveals that she felt “dead from inside” on the day doctors removed her breast. Moreover, Reena had to deal with post-surgery side effects and longer recuperation time associated with a mastectomy.

However, the bright side was her Surgical Oncologist/Cancer Specialist did throw light on reconstructing her breast, if she would want to consider it – but then again this is additional surgery.

The Lumpectomy!

A lumpectomy, on the other hand, retains not just the appearance of most of the breast but also most of the sensation in it.  In this sense, many women like Rupa Gajjar, consider it as less invasive. The 55 year old, sprightly, broad-shouldered lady lives in an upscale locality. She was strongly against mastectomy, as she puts, “Back then a mastectomy was a must, the doctors would state it as mandatory, but it’s high time they realize that it’s not feasible for feisty women like me. Why should I have to give up my entire breast? If there’s gangrene in the toe, before it spreads, you cut it off. But you don’t chop off your entire leg, do you? “ Yes, this almost-touching sixty year old knows what she wants and how to get it!

But what about the potential disadvantages of a lumpectomy?  “What disadvantages? “ growls an angry Rupa. “So what if there’s a higher recurrence risk with a lumpectomy than a mastectomy? I am willing to take that risk. Half the time in life we go through feelings, ‘what if this happens’ but then there are equal chances of it not happening too. I firmly believe that you keep thinking it will happen, then it’s bound to happen – so I might as well channelize my mental energy in a positive way.” On this note, she drives off to her gym for her everyday workout.

A note of caution here: there’s a possibility that your breast may not be able to tolerate additional surgery after a lumpectomy, this makes a mastectomy the only way out.

How it is done

During a lumpectomy, the surgeon does not remove only the affected cells, but also normal tissue in the margins. After the procedure the margins are sent to a pathological lab to ascertain whether that ere are any cancerous traces. If these are found, then another surgery would be required to remove them.

For Shalini Arora, who did not want to reveal her age, it was another stance – she was in the dark about a very important fact regarding lumpectomy.  Radiation can greatly affect reconstruction timings and since the process altered her reconstruction options, she had to a lot more time. She ended up missing her sister’s wedding but is happy to have triumphed, for the choice she made.

All these women have one thing in common – the fortitude to bear the turbulence cancer caused in their lives. It is their inner strength that helped them immensely coupled with the power of knowledge about technological advances.

Surgical oncologists are here to aid women tide over this crisis, to allay suffering and enable them to lead normal, fuller lives. Book your appointment today. 

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