Having a Mastectomy… Prevention against Breast Cancer: A Woman’s Choice – or is it?

Have you ever considered whether we are being controlled by the latest information? – Take Breast Cancer and Mastectomy, for instance.

In the media there has been a lot of discussion around women having a mastectomy (and in some instances, double mastectomies) as a form of prevention against breast cancer. Much of the information being put forward is that women have one of two choices: “Currently, women facing a strong likelihood of developing breast cancer have only two real options – to have both of their breasts removed (a double mastectomy) or hope that it will never actually happen”. (BBC News Online, 14th May 2013)

This stopped me and got me pondering –

Are these really a woman’s only choices?

And if so, what does this do to a woman’s state of being, when both are based on breast cancer being a pre-determined outcome? When people believe they have no power or choice over a situation they begin to feel a sense of hopelessness – this is termed in the psychological world as ‘learned helplessness’ – a condition by which a person feels they have no control over a situation. In this state they behave in a hopeless manner, overlooking any opportunities for a different choice and feeling they have no ability to change (Peterson, 1996).

BREAST CANCER & MASTECTOMY – PRESENTING AN OPPORTUNITY FOR A DIFFERENT CHOICE

How many women, due to what is being reported in the media etc, are giving up, thinking that their only choice is having a mastectomy if they want to prevent breast cancer and because of this, are overlooking opportunities for a different choice?

We live in a fast paced world; we are fed so much information at such a rapid rate do we ever really stop to process it all… to weigh up all the choices, to take time to feel into it and consider what is being presented? Or do we go with what we read and what we hear… and if so, why?

Is it easier to fall into line with what the majority is saying, or would it serve us further to stop and take a moment and ponder on all that is being presented, to ask ourselves, does this choice make sense and how does this feel to me?

Often, if not always, if we don’t take time to stop and ponder on these questions we fall into line with what we are being told – and in that make choices based on this information, going with a momentum that may not be true for us.

But what of the consequences of these choices?

What in particular are the consequences of a woman making a choice in regard to her options around the prevention of breast cancer, which includes the possibility of having a mastectomy?

  • We are all different, and what may be true for one woman may not be true for another
  • If we as women don’t stop to take the time to ponder, to really ask ourselves ‘what does it mean to me’, then

How much of what we hear and read about influences us sub-consciously?

I recently heard that our greatest form of medicine is the choices that we make (Serge Benhayon, Esoteric Medicine 18, 2012) and that it is never too late to make a different choice.  When we consider that every choice has a consequence whether it be good or bad… would it not pay for us to look at all the options of the choices that we have to make?

With the recent reporting around breast cancer and all our available options, are we as women getting all the facts, and as a result, are we considering all our choices?

Are we as women stopping to truly ponder on what it all means and what is truly the right choice for ourselves?

GENETIC MARKERS (BRCA) AND THE RISK OF BREAST CANCER – RESEARCH MISMATCH

A lot is being said about genetic markers playing an important and often crucial part in the decision to have a double mastectomy; many of the articles report that if you have the genetic marker BRCA1 or BRCA2, then you are at a very high risk of developing both breast and ovarian cancer: women are being encouraged to test to see if they carry either or both of these genes.

In an interview with Angelina Jolie, who carries the BRCA1 marker, she states; “My doctors estimated that I had an 87 per cent risk of breast cancer and a 50 per cent risk of ovarian cancer” (New Idea, May 2013).  In another article women are being told that if they carry the BRCA1 marker they have a 65% risk of developing breast cancer by the time they are 70 (Michelle Roberts, BBC News Online, 15th January 2013). Some articles even go so far as to say that surgery to remove both breasts would bring a woman’s lifetime risk down to virtually zero (Michelle Roberts, BBC News Online, 25th June 2013).

This is surprising if not shocking, when with further scientific research, these reports don’t match with what the scientific world is now saying.  In The New England Journal of Medicine, M.D. J Stuewing’s research found that by the age of 70, the estimated risk of breast cancer among carriers of the BRCA1 mutation was 56 percent and 16 percent for ovarian cancer; he also reports that these findings may actually be as low or even lower than 50% for breast cancer. These findings are significantly lower than what is being reported in mainstream media.

Why the disparity?

Is there more going on than we are aware of? Who profits from creating fear and anxiety around cancer: is it the drug companies, is it the media outlets, or is it both?

Since all of this began, articles have emerged around the benefits of every woman testing for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation, as well as the promotion of a new drug, Tamoxifen; in the BBC News Online, Professor Evans, says “for some women, taking Tamoxifen could be an alternative to having a preventative mastectomy, or breast removal”(Michelle Roberts, BBC News Online, 15th January 2013) – so it would seem, woman now have one of three choices:

  1.       I.     Have both their breasts removed (a double mastectomy)
  2.     II.     Hope that it (getting cancer) will never happen OR
  3.   III.     Take Tamoxifen in the hope that it prevents the need for a mastectomy

A WOMAN’S RIGHT TO CHOOSE… ARE WE PROVIDING THE OPPORTUNITY TO CHOOSE FREELY?

And if that is not concerning enough, what of the emotional charge of all these articles reporting on the risks of breast cancer and preventative measures such as having a mastectomy… ‘do whatever it takes to survive’, ‘survive for your children, your family’… and in all of that, do we really feel we have a choice?

In an article with Angelina Jolie she states that she would do anything for her children and husband “I love them and will do anything to be with them as long as I can” and goes on to say it was “an empowering choice” (Woman’s Day, May 2013).

In the prevention of breast cancer, are we setting women up so that they too feel they have to make this “empowered” choice, otherwise they are not good wives or mothers? This is not to say that women who have made the choice in having a mastectomy are wrong; this article is presenting that each woman has the right to choose, and whatever they choose needs to be honoured and respected…

But are we giving women the opportunity to choose freely based on all the facts, and not on the ones that are being selected for us?

Would we not be supporting these women truly if we let them know what a true empowered choice was… a choice based on having all the facts and a choice based on honouring what feels true and right for each individual, not swayed or influenced by the theme of the time?

THE SCIENCE OF EPIGENETICS, ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS AND THE LINK TO CANCER

Very few if any of the media articles bring up the fact that genetic markers such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 are not the only key players in the development of cancer, and more and more scientific evidence is pointing towards environmental factors playing a huge part in the development of cancer.  According to the National Cancer Institute, doctors often cannot explain why one person develops cancer over another, but research has found that there are certain risk factors that determine the development of cancer, including; smoking, alcohol, poor diet, obesity and lack of exercise.

The National Cancer Institute is not alone; research is now finding more and more that stress, anxiety and lifestyle choices as discussed above, are large contributors to the development of cancer.  Although research as yet has not found a direct link, studies are finding that stress affects the immune system (Saul McLeod, 2010), which then affects our genetic structure, mutating genes that then go on to cause cancerous cells.  This is now being further supported by the study of Epigenetics.

The science of Epigenetics is showing more and more that illness and disease is a result of environmental behaviours and not pure genetic makeup.  Epigenetics is showing that our genetic makeup can be altered and mutate into cancerous genes due to the choices that we make and how we live, including stress and lifestyle choices, and that in many cases, epigenetic changes are activated by some change in the environment that is typically something stressful (The Bulletproof Executive). In studies with genetic twins, research has found that it is not their gene make up that determines whether they develop cancer or not, but that identical twins’ DNA and their genetic make-up vary significantly based on the different choices that they make. Environmental factors such as diet, exercise and stress are all factors that change identical twins’ genetic structure over time (J. T. Bell and T.D. Spector, 2010).

OUR TRUE STATE OF BEING IS DETERMINED BY ALL OUR CHOICES

If it is true, that our true state of being is determined by our choices, be they psychological and or emotional, (which Epigenetics is clearly showing it is), then does the media not hold a responsibility to report all the facts around the prevention of breast cancer, which may or may not include having a mastectomy? Does it not have a responsibility to report all the choices available to women in deciding what is right for them and their bodies, and in consideration of the consequences of their choices?

And a question to be posed to all of humanity: why is it that we make choices that are not right for us… when did we stop feeling and start listening to others, even when deep inside something didn’t feel quite right?

If you take the time to stop and listen you may be surprised by what you hear…

Is it time to make our own choices and if the answer is YES, then you will find them deep within yourself…

Stop and listen, you may be surprised by what you hear…

You may be surprised by what you do know!

By Caroline Raphael (Registered Psychologist) B Psych MAPS EPA* Member

* The EPA (Esoteric Practitioners Association) is a branch of Universal Medicine. It was instigated by Universal Medicine to monitor and accredit the modalities that were founded by Universal Medicine.  

References:
BBC News Online, Angelina Jolie has double mastectomy due to cancer gene, 14th May 2013
BBC News Online, Breast Cancer: NHS to offer tamoxifen to at-risk women, Michelle Roberts, 25th June 2013, online
BBC News Online, Breast cancer: Drugs v mastectomy, Michelle Roberts, 15 January 2013, online
National Cancer Institute, What you need to know about Cancer
Bulletproof Executive, How Your Environment Hacks Your Genes for You
Candida Peterson, Looking forward through the lifespan: Developmental Psychology, 1996, Prentice Hall Publishing
New Idea, Angelina Jolie reveals: I had a double mastectomy, Tuesday, May 14, 2013
PubMed – NCBI,  A twin approach to unraveling Epigenetics, J.T. Bell & T. D. Spector, 21 January 2010
Serge Benhayon, Esoteric Medicine 18 (Audio), Universal Medicine 2012
Simply Psychology, Stress and the Immune System, Saul McLeod 2010
The New England Journal of Medicine, The Risk of Cancer Associated with Specific Mutations of BRCA1 and BRCA2 among Ashkenazi Jews,  Jeffery P. Stuewing and et al., 15th May 1997
Woman’s Day, Angelina Jolie reveals: I had a double mastectomy, May 14, 2013

206 thoughts on “Having a Mastectomy… Prevention against Breast Cancer: A Woman’s Choice – or is it?

  1. A part of us likes to have instructions, to be told what to do, to not make decisions ourselves so that if anything does not work we can then point the finger instead of taking responsibility for this ourselves. However, what if the true answers that we are looking for are actually not that far away: “Is it time to make our own choices and if the answer is YES, then you will find them deep within yourself…

  2. When a person who plays a prominent role in the eye of the media makes a decision in their life and shares that to the world, there is an aspect of playing as a role model whether they like it or not. Now this role model is not necessarily modelling ‘good’ choices so to speak…but the point is that their decisions and actions will often be copied and followed by many others. This means that the person who is in this lime-light and acting as a role model actually holds a big responsibility in how they can influence many many others. This is a role not to take lightly.

  3. Awesome exposé and sharing Caroline and one that asks many pertinent questions. When the media only offers a limited viewpoint, this can set people up to believe that that is all that is on offer. But at the same time it is every woman’s responsibility to question what the media presents as the vast majority of the time we are not presented with the truth, but rather snippets of truth buried amongst fear mongering half truth or even lies.

  4. Every choice we make has an effect on the next choice we make. Choosing to be aware what feels true for ourselves is a great place to start.

  5. Thank you Caroline for putting this here so clear. I feel the empowering in your blog for all women. And the way all gets played out to benefit some and to disempower women is also clear. This happens already for so long in so many ways. The whole breast cancer increase is showing us as women that we should have a look why this is. Not by reading it somewhere but by feeling it and talking with each other.

  6. “I recently heard that our greatest form of medicine is the choices that we make” I absolutely love this – it totally gives the power back – the end of disempowerment.

  7. When we have given up on life and ourselves we constantly seek outside for answers in the hope of finding or bettering ourselves feeling lost and disconnected and closed off from considering our choices in fear and self-doubt and at a loss on how to truly support ourselves. We need to stop and feel the truth from our body and the more we turn inwards and deepen our connection to our body and our feelings the more we empower ourselves to make choices that feel true for us and to take responsibility for those choices.

  8. This is a great article which will support many women to be aware of the importance of tapping into the wisdom of their own bodies, when faced with a decision concerning their health and wellbeing either in the moment and in the future.

  9. The only way we can truly support women in their choice is to present all the facts, the truth, rather than selected bits, they then can make ‘ a choice based on having all the facts and a choice based on honouring what feels true and right for each individual’.

  10. For many decades the standard treatment for any breast cancer, no matter how small, was a radical mastectomy often leading to serious other effects – until they checked and found out it made little or no difference to survival rates.

  11. When we as women claim ourselves – the beauty, the divinity and the sacredness within – there will be no more demand for media that imposes upon us their thoughts – The more we know ourselves the more we know whats best for our body.

    1. Yes, if you don’t have that demand then the media that fulfils that demand looks very strange to you in my experience.

  12. We still as a society have yet to understand the extent to which a women’s body is imposed upon by ideals and beliefs. As soon as women is born there are ideals pushed onto her in regards her own body. Part of true evolution is discarding these beliefs and getting back to the raw uncut version of ourselves that actually knows what to do, what to say and the best treatment to have.

  13. “How much of what we hear and read about influences us sub-consciously?”
    Sometimes I talk to people and I can actually feel the program/news channel they have been listening to/ watching, what comes out of people’s mouths is often just a regurgitation of news they have heard.
    We need to be more discerning so we can can get to the bottom of what we truly feel about something not just take someone else word.

  14. This is always a very relevant and important question to consider, ‘But are we giving women the opportunity to choose freely based on all the facts, and not on the ones that are being selected for us?’

  15. It’s completely irresponsible of the bbc to write that: “Currently, women facing a strong likelihood of developing breast cancer have only two real options – to have both of their breasts removed (a double mastectomy) or hope that it will never actually happen”. That’s almost like telling women to give up – and implies that we don’t truly have a choice and that we can’t empower ourselves by choosing what’s right for us, our health and well-being.

  16. Listening to one’s innermost and what feels right for one woman won’t be right for another. Yet if we go against our doctor’s decision and feel for ourselves what is true, it can sometimes be difficult to establish a trusting relationship thereafter. In the UK we have free healthcare under the NHS – which is great – and we have to be more assertive about our wishes and not give our power away.

    1. There are many things coming at a woman with cancer and her team when making medical decisions – if she chooses not to follow conventional medicine, her doctor can be made liable for ‘neglect’ unless he or she can show that they have very clearly indicated that the best option for her is medical treatment and that this was emphasised. It seems this is a battle for all to save one’s job and face in front of a medical system that holds a particular perspective that is not always flexible. The real question should be what is best for each individual woman and what does she want.

  17. “But are we giving women the opportunity to choose freely based on all the facts, and not on the ones that are being selected for us?” This is such an important question. How are we to make the correct decision for ourselves if we don’t have all the true facts? I know at least one woman who had had a preventive mastectomy on account of the BRCA gene.

  18. “Are we as women stopping to truly ponder on what it all means and what is truly the right choice for ourselves?” Judging by the levels of illness, disease and mental health issues – the answer is a clear and definite no.

    1. Following another’s choices without truly feeling what is the best option for oneself is the marker of aligning to the masses but not stopping to breakdown the big picture and look for the truth that resonates for each and every woman.

      1. Spot on Natalliya, for each and every woman is unique and there is no one approach that fits all.

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