Cancer clinics use irrational fear to trick women into unnecessary mastectomies

But this increasingly common procedure, known as a contralateral prophylactic mastectomy (CPM), has proven to be more fear-based than anything, as expert analysis shows that CPM does basically nothing to increase a woman’s chances of survival.

Yet, despite its failure to stack up scientifically, the CPM procedure somehow continues to grow in popularity, an anomalous phenomenon that a new study recently published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine suggests might be the cancer industry’s fault. Researchers from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston found that many women simply have a false understanding of what CPM can do for them, which is a direct result of the cancer industry overstating its alleged benefits and understating its many risks.

The study, which was led by Shoshana Rosenberg, Sc.D., M.P.H., from Dana-Farber’s Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers, included analysis of survey data collected from 123 women under the age of 40 who had decided to undergo the CPM procedure. Each of these women only had detected cancer in one of her breasts prior to getting both of them removed, and most of them did not have a so-called “genetic predisposition” to breast cancer, which is alleged to be the only potential legitimate application of CPM.

For the survey, each woman was asked why she opted for the CPM procedure in the first place and what she knew about it prior to giving her informed consent to have it done. Each woman’s understanding of the risks and benefits of CPM was also assessed, as were individual levels of satisfaction with the procedure after it was completed.

Cancer industry myths driving many women to have their breasts needlessly removed

Not surprisingly, most of the women responded to the survey indicating that they chose CPM, because they thought that it would help improve their chances of survival by preventing cancer in the one breast from spreading. Even though this is not actually the case, and many of the women admitted their awareness of this fact, they all still went ahead with the procedure anyway.

As it turns out, there was an overall misunderstanding of the science behind CPM among virtually all participating women. All the women indicated an unrealistic understanding of the benefits of the procedure that minimized its many risks, which include severe disfigurement. There was also a collective misunderstanding of the success rate of the CPM procedure, which was inflated in the women’s minds by a factor of five.

While science dictates that as little as two percent of all women diagnosed with breast cancer can expect to derive any benefit whatsoever from the CPM procedure, the women who participated in the study falsely believed this figure to be ten percent. Many of them also had impractical notions about what their breasts would look like after the procedure — a shocking 42 percent of the women indicated that their sense of sexuality was damaged following the procedure.

“Our findings underscore how important it is that doctors effectively communicate the risks and benefits of CPM to women,” says Rosenberg, adding that “anxiety and fear of recurrence” are the most probable drivers behind this increasing trend. “We need to be sure that women are making informed decisions, supported decisions, based on an accurate understanding of the pros and cons of the procedure, and in a setting where anxiety and concerns can be addressed.”

Sources for this article include:

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com

http://www.science20.com

http://www.cbsnews.com

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