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NOT BORN YESTERDAY: Talk about options before breast surgery

By LINDA BROWN, Not Born Yesterday

October is breast cancer awareness month and we’re all likely to run into a whole bunch of pink — the official breast cancer color — during the next 30 days.

Luanne Freund, director at Vintage Park Assisted Lining Center, 2250 S Elm St., said she believes there can never be too much information and public awareness, which is why she chose the topic she did for this week’s Vintage Park column.

“There’s a troubling trend right now that concerns me greatly,” Freund said. “More and more women who are diagnosed with early stage breast cancer are choosing to have bilateral mastectomies; despite the fact that they could simply have the small tumors removed in a lumpectomy.

“Yes, they’d have to have radiation, but that’s fairly well tolerated and doesn’t make the woman sick. And, regardless if a lumpectomy or bilateral mastectomy is the chosen treatment has no bearing on whether a woman will need chemo. If she needs chemotherapy, she’ll get chemotherapy.”

Freund said the reasons for choosing the more radical surgery are many ranging from “tired of having to get mammograms every year” to “I’ve had droopy breasts for years. I can upgrade now and get a new perky pair.”

While a bilateral mastectomy greatly reduces the risk of getting breast cancer again within the breast area, it’s not a zero-percent risk. There remains a 1- to 2-percent risk — small, but still there.

The risk remains because it’s impossible to remove every breast cell. The risk of getting breast cancer recurrence in another organ remains the same no matter what kind of breast cancer surgery is done. If a rogue cell has left the breast and traveled elsewhere it can sit dormant for years before waking up and causing pure havoc.

If you are faced with having to choose between treatments for early stage breast cancer, Freund suggests considering all aspects of both surgeries and talking not only with your healthcare team but other breast cancer survivors.

Linda Brown is marketing director for The Ottawa Herald. Email her at

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