My thoughts on People Magazine’s cover story

My heart goes out to Giuliana Rancic. I admire her strength in dealing with fertility issues and now breast cancer in a very public eye. I join her millions of supporters in keeping her health, recovery and hopes in my thoughts and prayers.

When I saw Giuliana on the cover of People Magazine, I felt her pain through her words and photographs. I also felt thankful that we now live in a society in which we can talk about breast cancer openly. There was a time not so long ago when that wasn't the case.

With those disclaimers, I had some problems with the medical information included in the article:

“That recovery [from a double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction] is expected to take two weeks.”

Two weeks?!? Two weeks? I’ve fought a cold longer than two weeks!

People Magazine, I realize that you’re not known for investigative journalism, but I still hoped for more accurate information from your publication!

Following a double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction, a woman is likely to be hospitalized for several days to a week. She may be sent home with drains coming out of her breasts. Depending on where the extra tissue came from (her back, underarms and stomach are all possibilities), she may also feel a significant amount of pain in other areas.

The recovery time for reconstructive surgery alone is six to eight weeks. That estimate is increased when mastectomies and reconstruction are done simultaneously because that’s a more traumatic procedure on a female’s body.

The surgical recovery time also fails to factor in the need that many women have for physical therapy once they are recouped. Mastectomies and reconstruction make it difficult for women to move their arms, stretch their chest and rotate their shoulders. Physical therapy might be required to assist with increasing strength and mobility.

And, what about the emotional recovery piece? We live in a culture that reveres breasts as symbols of femininity. Battling cancer and frequent hospital visits and surgeries can also take their toll on a woman’s peace of mind. An estimated 30% of women beat breast cancer and experience depression. Another 20% suffer from body image issues.

I also cringed when I read the statement in the article from oncologist Dr. Guiliano that “in some conditions…it [attempting IVF after surgery for breast cancer] is quite safe.”

I’m not a doctor, but it doesn’t take a medical degree to put the pieces of this puzzle together.

If a woman has breast cancer that tested positive for estrogen receptors, the cancer fed on estrogen and hormonal imbalances. About 75% of breast cancers are estrogen positive. IVF, pregnancy and childbirth cause dramatic fluctuations in the hormones in a woman’s body.

The decision to try IVF or get pregnant after battling certain types of cancers should not be a precipitous one. Women understandably look up to and identify with a public figure like Giuliana Rancic. People Magazine, it was worth throwing in a disclaimer that each woman’s experience with the disease and fertility is unique and that each woman should consult with her doctor to determine what is in her best interest.

Giuliana, I pray that your recovery is as quick and painless as possible.

People Magazine, I hope you recognize that you can empower women to be better health advocates and be more informed through your publication.

Readers, the year is almost over! What can you do to take care of your health more in 2012? Are there medical appointments that you need to be making?

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