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The Sex of Your Surgeon May Matter

Posted Nov 30 2008 12:20pm
One may ask what does the topic of radiation of the breast for breast cancer have to do with women's sexual health. Women often tell us that their breast has much to do with their sexuality and even arousal. Some women even consider it to be a "sexual organ". Thus, providing women the best options for their particular breast cancer is essential.

Although women were more likely to receive radiation therapy if they went to a female surgeon, we hope that women who have intimacy problems or FSD are not more likely to receive the best care because they are seeing female providers. This would be an interesting study!

However, the take home message is, always get a second opinion when it comes to chemotherapy, surgery and radiation, and educate yourself through credible websites such as concerning all possible treatment options. We women must be our own best advocates.

New York Times by Tara Parker Pope
Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Sex of Your Surgeon May Matter
Whether a woman receives radiation treatment after breast cancer surgery may be influenced by the gender of her surgeon, according to a new report from The Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The gender of your surgeon may impact your treatment. (Fred Conrad/The New York Times)The study, from researchers at Columbia University, set out to determine why breast cancer treatment still varies among similar patients. In particular, they looked at radiation treatment given to women after lumpectomy. The treatment is considered a standard of quality cancer care and has been shown to reduce breast cancer recurrence and mortality. However, many women still don’t receive it.

Earlier studies have suggested that demographic characteristics influence whether a woman receives postsurgical radiation. A patient’s race, age and how far she lives from a radiation therapy facility all are factors that affect her chance of receiving the treatment.

But the latest report looked at the doctors behind the decisions. The researchers analyzed data on nearly 30,000 women aged 65 and older who were diagnosed with breast cancer between 1991 and 2002 and who received lumpectomy. They also analyzed data on the 4,453 surgeons who operated on the women.

About one in four women were not treated with radiation after surgery. Older women, black women, unmarried women and those living outside urban areas were less likely to receive radiation. But after controlling for those factors as well as characteristics of each woman’s cancer, the Columbia researchers spotted other trends.

Women who received radiation were more likely to have a female surgeon. Women who were treated by more experienced surgeons were also more likely to receive radiation treatment, as were women treated by doctors trained in the United States.

Dr. Dawn L. Hershman, co-director of the breast program at the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at Columbia University, said it’s not clear why women treated by female surgeons were more likely to receive radiation. It may have to do with the nature of a woman’s relationship with her doctor or the doctor’s communication style.

“It’s important to figure out all the factors that can contribute to improving quality of care,’’ said Dr. Hershman. “There are many fantastic male surgeons….It shouldn’t be taken that every woman should be seen by a woman, but there are some contributing factors to this difference that we need to investigate further.'’
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