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Is Breast Cancer Overtreated

Is breast cancer overtreated? Are multitudes of women in the United States receiving medical treatments for breast cancer that they do not need? Or, do those multitudes of women need those medical treatments?

According to the American Cancer Society, 234,580 people in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, and 40,030 will die from breast cancer. When you hear that over 40,000 people will die from breast cancer this year in the United States, it is hard to imagine that breast cancer could be overtreated.

Favorable prognosis

In addition, about half of the people who are diagnosed with breast cancer this year will be given a particularly favorable prognosis. This is due to the fact that more breast cancers are being discovered in an early, curable stage.

However, in spite of their favorable prognosis, many of these people will have aggressive medical treatments that may only have a small or no effect on their survival. Such treatment is regarded as overtreatment by some cancer researchers.

What overtreatment may involve

This overtreatment may consist of chemotherapy with all of the resulting side effects. Or, overtreatment may involve extensive surgery that entails a harder recovery and additional risks.

In two recently published commentaries, a cancer researcher expressed his concerns in regard to breast cancer being overtreated.

Steven Katz, M.D., M.P.H., is the co-director of socio-behavioral research at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center. He said, “Patients generally feel well when they are diagnosed but suddenly they confront a major health threat and a complicated set of decisions about arduous treatments. Often, they feel compelled to make decisions before they fully understand the risks and benefits of those treatments. “

Surgical procedure

One commentary specifically dealt with what is known as contralateral prophylactic mastectomy. This is a surgical procedure in which a breast that has no cancer is removed in addition to the other breast that has cancer. The commentary says that this procedure may be right for a small number of women who have BRCA gene mutations, but for the majority of women, the likelihood that cancer will occur in the cancer-free breast is far less likely than the cancer spreading to other areas of the body.

Katz added that, “In some cases, powerful gut responses are likely driving patient preferences for the most aggressive treatment strategies. But these responses focus on the overall threat of cancer, not on the benefits and harms of each treatment option.”

Power of surgeon

Melvin J. Silverstein, M.D., is the medical director of the Lee Breast Center at USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and professor of surgery at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine. He said, “ Surgeons have a lot of power when they talk to patients. Most of the time, patients are going to do what the surgeons tell them. And if surgeons want to do mastectomies for everything, they can spin (the diagnosis) in a certain way that’s quite negative.”

If you believe that you have been a victim of overtreatment for breast cancer or any other medical condition, it may be in your best interests to discuss your case with a personal injury attorney at no cost or obligation to you.

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