When faced with an illness, a natural reaction can be an overwhelming fear of imminent death. For this reason, it is imperative that you clearly understand the ramifications of what you are up against. 

The tendency to over-treat is widespread. Doctors and patients alike, as a broad generalization, tend to feel that the best answer to a problem is to ferret it out with the most powerful weapons available.  

But that sort of aggressiveness comes with a price. Aggressive medical therapy carries the potential for side effects, a potential with any drug regimen. Aggressive surgery carries the obvious potential for physical deformity as well as immediate and subsequent complications. Even the smallest abdominal surgery can still predispose a person to subsequent bowel obstructions.

To be clear, I am absolutely not advocating that you forego appropriate, necessary treatments for an illness. I am merely pointing out the need for clear understanding of the risks and benefits of any regimen. 

Dont let fear overwhelm you. Get informed so you can maximize your chances of getting back to health. 

What prompts my post today? The following excerpt from the AMA Daily Email: 

Bilateral mastectomy may not increase survival chances for most women with breast cancer.

The AP (9/3, Tanner) reports that research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that “removing both breasts to treat cancer affecting only one side doesn’t boost survival chances for most women, compared with surgery that removes just the tumor.”

        Bloomberg News (9/3, Cortez) reports that “the surgery...carried a survival rate of 81 percent over 10 years in about 200,000 women studied.” According to Bloomberg News, “That compares with 83 percent for patients who underwent a lumpectomy...followed by radiation.”

        TIME (9/3, Sifferlin) reports that the investigators “found that double mastectomies for early-stage breast cancer increased significantly from 1998 to 2011.” The data also indicated that “double mastectomies increased the most among women who were under age 40 when they were diagnosed.”

        The San Francisco Chronicle (9/3, Colliver) reports that while “physicians and researchers aren’t exactly sure why more women are having double mastectomies...they say that anxiety about getting a second cancer, improvements in reconstruction surgeries and concern about breast symmetry may play a role.”

        The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (9/3, Carpenter) points out that the majority of patients “choosing double mastectomies are white, have private insurance and receive treatment at a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center, the researchers found.” The NPR (9/3, Shute) “Shots” blog and HealthDay (9/3, Doheny) also cover the story.