Although the failure to improve survival by cutting a woman's breast off
was well recognized by the early 1950s (1), this practice continues today.
A New England Journal of Medicine article published in 1996 found 65%
of women from 1983 through 1990 were still undergoing breast
amputation for breast cancer(2).   I estimate that over seven million
women have had their breast(s) removed unnecessarily over the past 50
years in the United States alone (50 years times 150,000 women/year
undergoing mastectomy).  And well informed doctors have known the
truth and have continued to let this happen without lifting a hand to stop
the death and disfigurement.

This past month, October of 2002, the New England Journal of Medicine
published two, twenty-year follow-up studies on breast cancer treatment.
Their unquestionable conclusion was the aggressive treatment of breast
cancer does no good and much harm.  The first study from Italy of 701
women with breast cancer found no survival benefit for radical
mastectomy compared to breast conserving surgery (a quadrantectomy –
a section of breast removed).  Approximately 42% of women had died of
all causes by 20 years.  The second study in the same journal from the
USA of 1851 women with invasive breast cancer compared women treated
with lumpectomy (with and without radiation) and total mastectomy. The
death rate after 20 years was the same for all 3 approaches (about 46%
were alive at 20 years from the time of diagnosis). An accompanying
editorial concluded, "It is time to declare the case against breast-
conserving therapy closed and focus our efforts on new strategies for the
prevention and cure of breast cancer." (5)

The reason that treatment of the breast area with any amount of surgery
or radiation has no effect on the ultimate outcome of this disease is that by
the time of diagnosis the course of the disease has already been
determined.  If it is an aggressive tumor then it has already spread to other
parts of the body – beyond the reach of surgery or radiation.  If it is not an
aggressive tumor, then it is unlikely to affect a woman's life regardless of
what medical actions she takes.

Will practices change now that the New England Journal of Medicine has
published these two large studies showing again that this aggressive
therapy (a mastectomy) is unnecessary and harmful?  I doubt it.  In the
late 1970s I listened to a well-respected surgeon's presentation at a noon-
time doctor's conference.  I asked, "Doctor, I have just listened to you talk
for the past hour on the failure of surgery, including the time-honored
mastectomy, to cure cancer or prolong life.  Why do you still perform
mastectomies when you fully realize the ineffectiveness of this approach
in saving lives?"  His answer was to the point.  "This is the way I was
trained."  I pursued the matter by asking what would change this common
practice in our healthcare system.  He replied, "A whole new generation of
surgeons trained differently."

So why add insult to injury?  It is bad enough to be told you have a
potentially fatal disease, but then to be told you have to be disfigured for
the rest of your life is an unforgivable and unnecessary catastrophe. Don't
wait for your doctor to bring his or her skills into the 21st century (or
even the 20th century).  Become well-informed and practice saying "NO"
for at least an hour before each doctor's visit.

   - Dr. John McDougall


1) Mustakallio S. Treatment of breast cancer by tumor extirpation and
roentgen treatment instead of radical operation. J Fac Radiol 6:23, 1954.

2) Nattinger AB. The effect of legislative requirements on the use of
breast-conserving surgery. N Engl J Med. 1996 Oct 3;335(14):1035-40.

3) Veronesi U. Twenty-year follow-up of a randomized study comparing
breast-conserving surgery with radical mastectomy for early breast
cancer. N Engl J Med. 2002 Oct 17;347(16):1227-32.

4) Fisher B. Twenty-year follow-up of a randomized trial comparing total
mastectomy, lumpectomy, and lumpectomy plus irradiation for the
treatment of invasive breast cancer. N Engl J Med. 2002 Oct 17;347(16):

5) Morrow M. Rational local therapy for breast cancer. N Engl J Med.
2002 Oct 17;347(16):1270-1.        

Copyright © 2009 John A. McDougall, M.D., All Rights Reserved.
Used here by permission 2-28-2009
Mastectomy - Is it really necessary?

A commentary by Dr. John McDougall
The following commentary appears on Dr. McDougall's website on this page
(after the breast cancer survivor's story)

Dr. McDougall is an internationally recognized healer of diseases through his
specialized vegetarian diet.
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