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...SURGERY FOR BREAST CANCER IS NOT ABOUT REMOVING BREASTS, ALWAYS…(contd.) The treatment of breast cancer has undergone major improvements and this has been reflected in how the outcomes have changed dramatically for the better. While curing the disease is a priority, maintaining quality of life is as important. The journey that has been covered before us is no less fascinating and the constant endeavor to make it better for the patient has driven the change. Mutilating surgeries in the form of amputation of the breast and then radical mastectomy (removal of the breast, muscles of the chest and the lymph nodes in the armpit ) or the extended radical mastectomy( same as radical mastectomy but with the additional removal of lymph nodes inside the chest) remained in vogue for a larger part of the 20th century. ...to be continued.....More history in the next update
SURGERY FOR BREAST CANCER IS NOT ABOUT REMOVING BREASTS, ALWAYS… In the 1960’s, the conviction that breast cancer was a systemic disease at inception and not a local disease, prompted trials to address one question- ‘Are we doing too much?’ Radical mastectomy was replaced by modified radical mastectomy- a procedure not as mutilating as radical mastectomy ( the chest muscles were preserved)but still one, which involved loss of an organ. Moreover, to a woman, it meant much more than the loss of an organ. It probably entailed a huge psychological blow besides casting a shadow on her feminity. She, being the woman she was, in those days, came to terms with this loss, in the best manner possible. All that mattered to her was her getting well, on her feet and ready to discharge the duties of a wife, mother, daughter and more. And there was really no choice then because the doctors treating her were also convinced that sacrificing the breast was the only chance of getting well. More tomorrow.....on Evolution of treatment
I am a big fan of Angelina Jolie. So what is the big deal about it? Half of the human race is possibly her fan..her looks and her acting prowess has had the world swooning. I am her fan for a different reason. I haven’t followed her movies, her drop dead gorgeous looks or her personal life but I admire her for her courage. Some years ago, this remarkable lady announced to the world that she is having both her breasts removed. She knew that she was carrying a genetic mutation which made her susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer. Her family history was strong for both breast and ovarian cancer and once she tested positive for the mutation, she knew she carried a 60-80% risk of developing either of these cancers. She was faced with the prospect of prophylactic breast and ovarian surgeries. I can only imagine the sleepless nights, the battle within-to do or not to do, several rounds of long discussions with her doctors, family and friends, the impact on her career which relied heavily on glamour, her children... and so much more. And then she made that decision to have both her breasts removed and subsequently her ovaries. She shocked the world but at the same time catapulted herself to that realm of courage and fortitude that rarely people of her standing dare to tread. I joined her fan club and her story of courage became the benchmark for women caught in a similar situation. Why I recalled this story was when I encountered my own Angelina Jolie. This young lady of 35 had a very strong family history of breast, ovarian and colon cancer on her maternal side.Her husband was gutted when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. I advised her for a genetic consult while planning for her surgery. The genetic consultant had barely advised her gene testing and was discussing the possible implications, when she said that she had made up her mind. She very calmly told the consultant that irrespective of what the test says she was going ahead with bilateral prophylactic mastectomies and bilateral ovarian surgeries in the same sitting. She came to be and conveyed the same to me. It shook me inwardly and took me a while to gain my composure as her husband stood by her, rock solid in his support of her decision. ‘COURAGE’ as a word probably does not do justice to the tenacity with which one arrives at this supremely difficult decision. I have done these surgeries before and this one was certainly not the last. Such decisions are rationalised within the multidisciplinary board, the molecular oncologists, the psychologists, the family and most importantly, the patients!! While I see more of these Angeina Jolie clones, I will always hope and pray that these amazing ladies’ decision translates into long, meaningful and inspiring lives!
SURGERY FOR BREAST CANCER IS NOT ABOUT REMOVING BREASTS, ALWAYS… While all this continued as the standard of care for the first 65 years of the 20th century, some smart minds in the medical field started questioning the necessity of performing such radical surgeries to get optimum results. Trials got underway to compare mastectomy versus breast conservation surgery in the 1970s. A pathologist turned surgeon, Dr Umberto Veronesi, pioneered the most convincing trial in Milan. He was able to show that breast conservation surgery (removal of the lump with a surrounding 1 cm margin of normal breast tissue) followed by radiation therapy to the rest of the breast in properly selected patients yielded the same results as a complete removal of the breast. I am quite convinced that it is the pathologist in this surgeon who urged him to go for this trial. He had probably seen while looking at the breast as a pathologist that far too much was being done to address small cancers in the breast. Finally, women with breast cancer had a choice…. For more information on breast cancer, please contact Dr Geeta Kadayaprath, Breast Surgeon, Max Cancer Centre, Delhi, India
SURGERY FOR BREAST CANCER IS NOT ABOUT REMOVING BREASTS, ALWAYS… When 32 year old Neena, an HR consultant in an MNC, walked into my clinic, accompanied by her husband and parents, I could sense an air of hopelessness surrounding this good looking young lady. The papers that were laid in front of me carried a needle biopsy report, which confirmed the diagnosis of breast cancer. Fortunately, for her, the size of the lump was about 2cms and there were no lymph nodes that I could feel in the armpit. There was no evidence of spread to the other organs on imaging. I soon realized she had been through the discussion of surgery and she had come to me for a second opinion. I soon found out why she had decided to come for a second opinion. She had been advised a modified radical mastectomy (complete removal of the breast along with the lymph nodes in the armpit). She was a successful career woman with everything going for her till yesterday and today she was grappling with this tough predicament- losing an organ, an integral part of her feminity to cancer- it was almost cruel!.......... ....To be continued.....watch this space for more.......
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