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Friday, December 26, 2008

He was more concerned about my health: Elective breast surgery

Knowing that her mother had had breast cancer at 49, Kerry Herman of Brooklyn, New York had her first mammogram at 38, just before her first full-term pregnancy. She was told her breasts were cystic and very dense but otherwise healthy. When she stopped nursing her daughter, she had a second mammogram, at 41, and then annually after that.

She was in her early 50s when the mammograms started to show calcifications. By then sonograms were readily available to supplement her breast exams. At age 55 her mammograms revealed a different pattern of calcifications in her left breast. Though the radiologist and surgeon told her they did not think this was worrisome, a biopsy was recommended and done in three locations. It revealed very early cancer called ductal carcinoma in situ, or D.C.I.S.

Faced with removal of her left breast and biopsies of the right, she said in an interview, "I decided to be more proactive. After consulting my husband, who said he was more concerned about my health than my breasts, I had a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction."

"I have never regretted my decision [about the elective surgery], she said. "For me, having to go through this every year and wondering if I would beat the Grim Reaper was agony."

A friend of hers with the same findings chose to wait and see, Kerry said. She ended up with an invasive cancer that had spread beyond the breast by the time of her next exam.

Advice to people with a friend at risk of breast cancer:
Help her consider all the options, and be supportive of her tough choice.

Read about another woman's very difficult decision on elective surgery

Thanks to Jane Brody for the source article in the New York Times of Oct. 21.

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