Unnecessary Breast Cancer Surgery Higher Among Poor Women?
Unnecessary surgery is certainly not a new topic. We hear about it quite often. Sometimes we’re hearing it related to questionable decisions urged by doctors and sometimes the discussion is about surgery of a cosmetic nature. However, when a woman faces breast cancer, unnecessary surgery just seems to be downright cruel.
A set of medical guidelines presented in 2005 clearly showed that there were ways to properly treat breast cancer which could in fact be successful while also reducing some of the pain, swelling, and eventual numbness faced by breast cancer surgery patients. How? By ceasing to unnecessarily remove lymph nodes under the armpit. Sounds reasonable. Why then are we finding that studies have shown that this unnecessary surgery is still being done? Think that’s bad? The news gets worse yet as studies show that this is more often done to elderly, poor, and Hispanic women. How can this be?
According to the most recently available statistics from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among women and is one of the leading causes of cancer death among women. For over 5 years now the American Society of Clinical Oncology has been encouraging doctors not to remove non-cancerous lymph nodes when performing mastectomies. It has even been stated that the removal of cancerous lymph nodes does not extend the life of the patient who is to undergo chemotherapy and radiation. Yet, researchers at a California Cancer Registry have found that it is still happening and most often among the poor, elderly and Hispanic. Again, the question is why?
Does this make the surgical process simpler for the hospital? Are hospital procedures examined closely enough? Is it about money? Dr. Jan H. Wong, of East Carolina University in Greensville, North Carolina, says "Do these data lend further evidence to the difficulty of translating evidence-based recommendations of care into clinical practice? If so, what are the reasons for this and how might this be corrected? Might these data suggest the selective management of women with early breast cancer based on the level of insurance coverage?" He refers to this as “a wake-up call that health care systems need to more rigorously examine the process of care and to intervene with corrective action where appropriate." Perhaps so, but ladies we also need to educate ourselves about our bodies! We need to ask questions and we need to make sure our questions are answered. A great deal of information is available from the American Cancer Society