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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

November 29, 2008 at 11:31 AM

Breast cancer study and “watchful waiting”

Don’t just wait

As a 22-year survivor of breast cancer and a volunteer offering support to numerous breast-cancer patients through Reach To Recovery, I cannot remain silent when “watchful waiting” of a breast cancer is suggested [“Study says some cancers go away without treatment,” Health, Nov. 25]. This gives false security to people who have trouble facing the reality of cancer.

I heard stories from women with advanced breast cancer who had delayed treatment because their doctor had advised watchful waiting. One woman’s doctor said, “My opinion is that if a lump is not bothering me, I would not bother it.” I heard this from a dying woman who went for evaluation of a “cherry-sized” lump in her breast. Other women with advanced cancer had delayed a mammogram because their medical insurance allowed a mammogram only once every three years.

A cancer can grow a lot in even one year. Get those mammograms. Don’t be fooled by faddist notions like “watchful waiting.”

When my small cancer was diagnosed, I thought of women who were still alive after breast cancer surgery: Shirley Temple, Happy Rockefeller and Betty Ford, as well as a friend who was alive and well 35 years after a mastectomy. I elected a mastectomy.

Nancy Reagan had a mastectomy for a small breast cancer about the same time as I did. She has reached the age of 87.

— Lois Horn, Seattle

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