OCT 10, 2017 5:47 AM PDT

Double Mastectomy Tied to More Missed Work

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Image credit: Pixabay.com

A new survey finds that women who undergo double mastectomy for early stage breast cancer are nearly 8 times more likely to miss work. The findings reopen discussion about the benefits and risks of such radical procedures. Furthermore, it reinforces the need for individualized treatment approaches because no one course of action will be suited for every patient.

For the study, researchers surveyed over 1,000 women who were diagnosed and treated for early stage breast cancer. The team collected details about treatment approaches, employment, and employment support, among other factors.

They found that 19 percent of women opted for bilateral mastectomy, the removal of both breasts, followed by surgical reconstruction. Compared to women who underwent lumpectomy and radiation therapy, these women were 7.8 times more likely to miss at least one month from work, or stop working altogether.

"It really stood out, especially because bilateral mastectomy has not been demonstrated to improve survival, and clearly has a negative impact on employment," said Dr. Reshma Jagsi, professor and deputy chair of radiation oncology at Michigan Medicine, and the study’s lead author.

"It's not clear that this association between surgical treatment aggressiveness and employment experience is something that is making its way into the discussions that physicians have with patients about the full range of risks and benefits of their treatment decisions,” Dr. Jagsi explained.

"But as we've had success reducing overtreatment with chemotherapy, we're now seeing a paradoxical increase in what may be overtreatment with surgery," said Jagsi. "We're seeing more and more women choosing a much more aggressive surgical treatment that isn't clinically mandatory and doesn't improve survival, often for peace of mind."

The authors hope the findings encourage women and their doctors to talk more openly about all available options, and the benefits and risks associated with each. The key may be empowering patients with complete and accurate information so that they will be fully informed when enacting autonomy of their health options.

"So when a woman walks into a consultation saying 'I really want to remove both of my breasts,' the role of the physician is to say 'I hear you, I will support you, we will do what you ultimately decide to do,'" said Jagsi. "But they also need to make sure the patient is aware of all the options available to her, and the relative risks and benefits."

"We also need to develop formal training modules for physicians and surgeons who are treating people with cancer to understand how to begin conversations about employment effects and incorporate those into our routine discussions," said Jagsi. "It doesn't mean that every woman who learns of these study findings is going to choose not to have a bilateral mastectomy, but it is important to make sure that those who do choose that treatment course are fully informed."

The long-term consequences of bilateral mastectomy, in terms of employment and quality of life, are still to be investigated.

Additional sources: University of Michigan

About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
SEP 04, 2020
Cancer
Attacking Cancer's Metabolism: A New Take on Fermented Wheat Germ Extract
SEP 04, 2020
Attacking Cancer's Metabolism: A New Take on Fermented Wheat Germ Extract
One of the hallmarks of evolution is the oxidative phosphorylation metabolic system. Not only does it produce energy in ...
SEP 12, 2020
Cancer
Treating cancer with the botanical andrographis
SEP 12, 2020
Treating cancer with the botanical andrographis
A study from City of Hope published in the journal Carcinogenesis reports that the use of the natural botanical And ...
SEP 30, 2020
Cancer
How to avoid endocrine disrupting chemicals in your life
SEP 30, 2020
How to avoid endocrine disrupting chemicals in your life
While few people actually enjoy reading product labels and ingredients, a new study from Silent Spring Institute suggest ...
OCT 11, 2020
Cancer
Targeting neoantigens to improve immunotherapies
OCT 11, 2020
Targeting neoantigens to improve immunotherapies
Neoantigens are extremely small biomarkers forming from cancer mutations that demonstrate the presence of cancerous cell ...
OCT 12, 2020
Cancer
Urine analysis is better at detecting bladder cancer than urine cytology
OCT 12, 2020
Urine analysis is better at detecting bladder cancer than urine cytology
In a study published recently in the American Association for Cancer Research journal Clinical Cancer Research, scientis ...
NOV 23, 2020
Cancer
Women show higher survival rates than men post lung cancer surgery
NOV 23, 2020
Women show higher survival rates than men post lung cancer surgery
New research published in the journal Chest shows that women fare better than men following lung cancer surgery. Th ...
Loading Comments...