A great deal of our current medical care involves cancer. Most of us have an inherent fear of this dreaded disease. However, we do indeed have the ability to cure a significant number of the patients who have this diagnosis. This high success rate still has not reduced the inherent fears and has raised a level of concern that sometimes makes patients choose a treatment option that may be more than they really need.

Probably the best example of this fear relates to how many patients are now choosing to have double mastectomies for breast cancer or pre-cancer (DCIS), when this might be more treatment than is medically indicated. Much data, now over two decades old, has been generated showing statistically identical outcomes for mastectomy versus lumpectomy/radiation for the vast majority of these cases. Yet, it appears that many more patients are choosing mastectomy, and even double mastectomy, when there is no real data to prove any additional benefit of cure.

This is a clear example of when it is imperative for us as physicians to listen to our patients and hear what they are asking. For many, the choice is not about scientific data. The choice is about fear and the need to feel comfortable in the years following treatment. I have always felt that the first and foremost responsibility is to listen to our patients and hear what it is they are requesting. Always be honest about the options for treatment. Failure to understand these options is the fault of the doctor doing the explanations, not the patient. And once the options are discussed, we as physicians and caregivers are obliged to help the patient navigate the best possible path that also includes their mental as well as physical well-being. For more information on your condition or related concerns, contact us.