Successfully Cope With Breast Loss

Women are becoming more confident about mastectomy.

By Kevin RR Williams

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HEALTH Viewer Discretion: Whether it’s a foot, arm, leg or breast, patients are naturally devastated to leave a prominent and purposeful appendage behind in an operating room. Before agreeing to such a procedure, a patient must be convinced that amputation is the course offering the best possible outcome. Large disproportionate tumors or putrefying gangrenous limbs lessen opposition. With the lack of outward manifestation, patients often place trust in physician recommendations. It helps when such is supported by obvious radiological images or family history.

Double or Single?

Early treatment is advised. According to the American Cancer Society, 88% of women with Stage 1 breast cancer live at least five years, compared with women who don't have cancer. By Stage 4, the five-year relative survival rate declines to 15%.

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Prominent actresses like Angelina Jolie, Sharon Osbourne and Christina Applegate have been convinced that bi-lateral mastectomy is the best cancer treatment; for some, it was prophylactic. More women are opting for having both breasts removed after a diagnosis of cancer in just one breast. However, 10-year survival rates of 190,000 women were roughly the same – about 82 percent – for women who had lumpectomies plus radiation and for women who had double mastectomies. An innocent inquiry of lumpectomy might quickly be rebuffed by a surgeon with a stern caution against leaving any chance for cancer spreading. Of course, if biopsy reveals a well-defined benign fibroadenoma, breast-preserving excision of the foreign mass is protocol.

Successfully Cope With Breast Loss

Though quite invasive and disfiguring, breast removal today is far less barbaric than it was when Abigail “Nabby” Adams Smith had hers done. She was the firstborn child of the second United States President, John Adams who endured a mastectomy using crude tools and no anesthesia.

Separation Anxiety

When remodeling a bathroom, it is fairly easy to separate the ugly demolition from the aesthetically appealing fixture and wallpapering installation – particularly when the two stages take place in rapid succession. Most oncology surgeons might be compared to demolition experts. Their primary focus is on the excision of cancerous tissue – regardless of post-surgical appearance. Cosmetic surgery is reserved for future consideration by another professional. During the healing phase, women are quite vulnerable to pain and depression from feeling a lost femininity.

Successfully Cope With Breast Loss

Women should understand early on that a mastectomy will affect them mentally almost as much as it will physically and that they should begin exploring therapies to help them cope with the emotional effects of a mastectomy even before their breast cancer surgery. Although a mastectomy can change your feelings about yourself and your body, it's important to remember that you're worthy of love and attention – both from yourself and others. By staying positive and surrounding yourself with a good support system, you can undergo a mastectomy with your self-esteem intact. —Everyday Health

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Successfully Cope With Breast Loss

More women are having breast-conserving surgery that successfully removes malignancy. When a mastectomy is necessary, an increasing number of women undergo reconstructive surgery using an implant or their own fatty tissue. Nipple tattooing has become an art form preferred over less uniform sutures around a preserved areola. Dr. Leslie R. Schover, a staff psychologist at the Center for Sexual Function at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio, concludes: "The majority of women cope well with the stress of cancer surgery and the loss of a breast. The options of breast conservation and reconstruction give women a new sense of control over their treatment.”

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Tags: anxiety, bilateral, emotions, excision, nbcam, ob-gyn, oncology, psychology

References
  1. Study: Breast cancer survival rates are no better after double mastectomy. The Sydney Morning Herald
  2. Mastectomy #5: How It Was Done In The 18th Century. BisforBananasCisforCancer
  3. A Tattoo That Completes a New Breast. nytimes.com
  4. Women Who Lose Breasts Define Their Own Femininity. nytimes.com
  5. Modern Plastic Surgery. Mohamed A. Shoeib, et al. scirp.org