Health Reporter Chooses Double Breast Removal

By ABC News

Oct 12, 2011 5:13pm

ABC News’ Carrie Gann reports:

Linda Hurtado, a health reporter for WFTS in Tampa, Fla., had an emotional on-air discussion on Tuesday about her decision to have both of her breasts removed after she discovered she had a ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS, a growth that can lead to invasive breast cancer.

Hurtado told viewers that she was always burdened by her family’s history of breast cancer.

“I’ve lived my whole adult life in fear of getting breast cancer,” Hurtado said. “I watched the disease ravage my beautiful mother.”

When Hurtado was diagnosed with DCIS, she decided to forego the extensive treatment and instead have a double mastectomy.

“After watching my mother die, now seeing the fear in my own children’s eyes, I decided to only dance with this devil once,” she said.

DCIS is the earliest stage of breast cancer, sometimes referred to as “stage zero.”

It is not an advanced form of breast cancer, said Dr. Jennifer Litton, assistant professor of breast medical oncology at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, but if left untreated, some of those growths can turn into invasive tumors.

Some scientists consider a complete removal of the breasts an extreme approach to such an early form of the disease. But Litton said women often have many factors to weigh when they’re deciding how best to treat their breast cancer.

“People who have significant family histories or have seen a family member go through treatment may choose bilateral mastectomy, especially when the amount of worry is impacting their life more than the actual surgery would,” Litton said.Patients should have a very frank conversation with their oncologist, and put it into perspective of their current life, take into account their family history, hereditary cancers, and make the decision that is best for them.”

In her report, Hurtado noted that a double mastectomy was “my decision, which doesn’t mean it’s the right decision,” and urged her viewers to continue to get regular breast cancer screenings.

Litton noted that there are other effective options for treating breast cancer.

“There’s excellent data that lumpectomy plus radiation is a very good treatment for DCIS,” she said. “I don’t think everyone with breast cancer should undergo a bilateral mastectomy, but it is appropriate in some cases.”

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