Press, N. et al. 'That's like chopping off a finger because you're afraid it might get broken': disease and illness in women's views of prophylactic mastectomy. Soc. Sci. Med. 61, 1106-1117

University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Social Science & Medicine (Impact Factor: 2.89). 10/2005; 61(5):1106-17. DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2005.01.012
Source: PubMed


While data are accumulating on the efficacy of prophylactic mastectomy as a means to reduce breast cancer risk in high risk women, the effectiveness of the procedure depends on women's interest in undergoing the procedure. We report on women's responses to this surgical option as a prevention tool. Data derive from a multi-method study of women's interest in and understandings about genetic testing for breast cancer susceptibility. The sample comprises 246 women of varying ethnicities and familial breast cancer risk from Seattle, USA. In this paper, quantitative data are presented on the sociodemographic and risk perception correlates of degree of interest in taking a genetic test for breast cancer if prophylactic mastectomy were the only treatment option. In addition, we report results of a content analysis of women's open-ended responses to the question of whether and why they could imagine undergoing prophylactic mastectomy. Our analysis of these data benefits from a central distinction in medical anthropology between the concepts of illness and disease. We suggest that while prophylactic mastectomy may prevent the "disease" of breast cancer, it may be of little interest to women who see this surgery as itself mimicking the "illness" of breast cancer.

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    • ""Putting risk in its place" did not occur for all women, and was not a static process, indicating that some women are more able to live with the perception of chronic breast cancer risk than others. Press et al [21] argued that RM may have different meanings for women, and they explained the variation in women's uptake of RM in the United States, in terms of the distinction between illness and disease. Women who see RM as mimicking the illness of breast cancer, as opposed to preventing the disease, are less likely to consider the procedure an option. "
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    ABSTRACT: The purpose of this research was to explore women's decision-making experiences related to the option of risk-reducing mastectomy (RM), using a case series of three women who are carriers of a BRCA1/2 gene mutation. Data was collected in a pilot study that assessed the response of women to an information booklet about RM and decision-making support strategies. A detailed analysis of three women's descriptions of their decision-making processes and outcomes was conducted. All three women were carriers of a BRCA1/2 gene mutation and, although undecided, were leaning towards RM when initially assessed. Each woman reported a different RM decision outcome at last follow-up. Case #1 decided not to have RM, stating that RM was "too radical" and early detection methods were an effective strategy for dealing with breast cancer risk. Case #2 remained undecided about RM and, over time, she became less prepared to make a decision because she felt she did not have sufficient information about surgical effects. Case #3 had undergone RM by the time of her second follow-up interview and reported that she felt "a load off (her) mind now". RM decision making may shift over time and require decision support over an extended period.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2007 · BMC Women's Health

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    ABSTRACT: Cancer genetics is creating new practice opportunities in medical genetics, oncology, and primary care. The ethical and counseling challenges of this new area of practice are not unique but sometimes take new form in the context of genetic risk. This article uses cases to explore the issues associated with shared family risk, including competing concerns of family members, duty to warn relatives of genetic risk, and testing of children and other relatives. The ethical obligations of clinicians start with the need to maintain competence in the face of rapidly evolving science. Clinicians should be able to identify patients within their practice who are candidates for genetic testing. When genetic susceptibility to cancer is identified, patients should be offered counseling and follow-up, with referral as appropriate, to ensure delivery of care consistent with current standards. When patients experience barriers to needed health care, clinicians should advocate for their needs. Clinicians must ensure the autonomy and informed decision-making of all members of cancer-prone families. Clinicians must also provide emotional support and accurate information about cancer risks and cancer risk reduction measures, including uncertainties. Teamwork among different specialties is important in addressing these challenges.
    No preview · Article · Mar 2006 · Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network: JNCCN
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