OCT 10, 2017 05:47 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
JUL 17, 2018
Cancer
JUL 17, 2018
Large Multifactorial NIH Study Announced for Prostate Cancer Aggressiveness in African-American Men
The largest coordinated study on Prostate cancer aims to look at both genetic and environmental factors that lead to increased risk and cancer aggressiveness in African-American men compared...
SEP 04, 2018
Cancer
SEP 04, 2018
Metal beads that could help reduce chemotherapy side effects in brain tumor
Brain tumors are one of the most challenging types of cancers to treat. Only 1 in 7 patients will survive the disease, and those survivors will usually suffer from lots of side effects becaus...
OCT 06, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
OCT 06, 2018
Genetic Mutation Linked to Increased Pancreatic Cancer Risk in Women
In a first, researchers have found a genetic mutation that has a sex-specific effect on pancreatic cancer risk....
OCT 31, 2018
Cancer
OCT 31, 2018
Researchers identify a protein marker that induces dormancy in metastatic breast cancer
Researchers at the Mount Sinai hospital identified for the first time a protein marker that could indicate whether breast cancer will further metastasize or remains in a dormant state accordi...
NOV 05, 2018
Videos
NOV 05, 2018
How UV Rays Cause Aging and Skin Cancer
We know that UV rays can do damage to our DNA - but how?...
DEC 05, 2018
Cancer
DEC 05, 2018
Zika virus as a weapon against brain cancer
Glioblastoma is the most aggressive type of Brain Cancer with an average survival rate of less than two years with treatment. So what if there could be a cure for this type of cancer....
Loading Comments...