Cancer Fact Monday: Mastectomies and lumpectomies
Most women diagnosed with breast cancer will need surgery to remove the tumor, either a lumpectomy or mastectomy. A woman can also choose to have a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy when there is a family history of breast cancer or she tests positive for one of the gene mutations like BRCA1.
A lumpectomy occurs when the tumor and some surrounding tissue is removed, and normally is a choice for women whose tumor is small or diagnosed early. A woman whose tumor is larger or whose cancer is more advanced may need a unilateral mastectomy. If she opts for a mastectomy, she could also have the other breast removed as well, which is called a bilateral mastectomy.
This was one of the most frustrating things for me with my diagnosis...not only was I faced with seeing multiple doctors when I had no symptoms that I was sick, I was now faced with all these options, and no one telling me what to do.
Think about it - normally when you are sick or hurt, you go to the doctor, and they tell you what to do. At best, you may have 2 or 3 options, like try this drug,and if that doesn't work, we'll switch you to something else. Or, try therapy first, and if that doesn't work, surgery. And in the end, if everything goes right, you feel better. I wasn't sick, other than having this thing in my boob trying to kill me, and now you want to cut me up. Not only that, you can't tell me which option is best. With a lumpectomy, I would keep my breast, but a second surgery could be required if the doctor couldn't get clear margins, in other words, get all traces of the cancer.
Or, I could have a unilateral mastectomy with reconstruction. Or, I could have a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction. And then there's what kind of reconstruction to have (I'll leave that for another post).
Oh yeah, and even with removal of both boobs, there's no guarantee that the cancer wouldn't come back. Normally, having lots of choices is a good thing, really it is. But when you have to rely on the doctors as to what is wrong and what will make you better because you actually feel absolutely fine, all you really want is for someone to tell you the best thing to do, not give you a menu to order from and hope for the best!