Prophylactic Mastectomy: Insights from Women Who Chose to Reduce Their Risk

Prophylactic Mastectomy: Insights from Women Who Chose to Reduce Their Risk

Prophylactic Mastectomy: Insights from Women Who Chose to Reduce Their Risk

Prophylactic Mastectomy: Insights from Women Who Chose to Reduce Their Risk

Synopsis

Andrea Patenaude, a clinical psychologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, has spent a considerable time talking with women who decided to have risk-reducing or prophylactic mastectomy rather than undergo a lifetime of repeated screenings - a strategy that can help to detect cancers early, but cannot prevent breast cancer. In Prophylactic Mastectomy, Patenaude shares many candid stories from these women and documents the risks and benefits of this decision. The potential emotional trauma and lifelong effects on self-concept, body image, and sexual function for those who choose the surgery are profound. While the risks involved are great, these interviews also demonstrate the relief many women find in making this powerful decision. This book supplies much-needed guidance for both patients and physicians in confronting this complex decision, and provides comprehensive information on how women fare emotionally and interpersonally after this life-altering surgery. Interviewed as part of a study funded by the US Breast Cancer Research Program and the National Human Genome Research Institute, the subjects are diverse: married and single women, young adults, the middle-aged, parents, and women without children. Every case reveals the ramifications of each individual's difficult but potentially life-saving decision. The women explain why they made their choice, how they adapted to the new look of their bodies, and how they cope with spouses', partners', and family members' reactions to their changed physique.

Excerpt

This book exists because I felt that what would be most helpful to women making decisions about prophylactic mastectomy (PM) was the voices of women who had already made the decision and had had surgery to remove their breasts in an effort to prevent cancer. This book contains narratives from interviews with 21 women who participated in a research study at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts. The research was supported by the U.S Army Research Materiel Command Breast Cancer Research Program under grant DAMD17-99-19162 and from grant 1 R03 HG003051 from the Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications Program of the National Human Genome Research Institute. The women were interviewed by either me or by Dr. Sara Orozco, another psychologist. The interviews took place by telephone after the woman read and signed a consent form about the nature of the research and the potential risks and benefits of being interviewed. The questions which were asked were based on clinical experience with women who had made or were considering this choice and from topics or dilemmas which had surfaced in the few articles in the literature. (See Appendix B for the list of interview questions we asked.) In Chapter 1, I describe the way we found the women we interviewed and elaborate on the interview process in greater detail

PM is not for everyone. Even if research were to show that PM could reduce to zero any risk of a woman’s ever getting breast cancer (which it has not), it would not be acceptable to all women at high risk. Removing the breasts that might nurture one’s children, excite one’s partner, and add to one’s sexual pleasure and feminine identification may just not be something many women are willing to do. However . . .

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