Mhnnen and X -ra ys

Survival rates after breast surgery

Cancer ‘joreven tion

in their easy accessibility to the surgeon's knife (similar to tonsils) and to the comparative simplicity of this surgery as compared to other operations.

On the basis of this biologist's work, all women visiting doctors either for screening or treatment of breast cancer should be sure that their physicians can answer the questions Dr. Fox has raised.

(Ed. note: Although this information appeared in a previous newsletter, Vol. 3, No. 4, I felt the information was so important that it bears repeating here.)

As revealed in a study by a committee of the National Academy of Sciences, women face almost twice the risk that men do of developing cancer after exposure to low—level radiation. The report said that "solid tumors" found in "the breast in women, in lungs, the thyroid and the digestive system" are the major types of cancer associated with low- level radiation. The committee found that a latent period of 30 years or more may pass before a cancer caused by low—level radiation appears.

I wonder whether the difference in susceptibility to radiation- induced cancer is really due to sex difference. Since visits by women to doctors are seven times as common as visits by men, perhaps the real cause of these cancers is the increased number of x—rays that doctors order for women.

In a 1978 issue of Archives of Surger , a team of specialists from Rockford, Ill., stated that radical mastectomy to remove a cancerous breast and the underlying and adjacent tissue should be used only in special cases because it does not increase the survival rate when com- pared with more conservative procedures.

The Rockford team studied women who had had surgery for breast cancer during the years 1924 to 1972. Most of the women were followed for 10 years. The researchers who analyzed 1,686 cancer operations reported "no statistically significant difference in five— and 10-year survival for simple (removal of a breast but not adjacent tissue), modified radical, or radical mastectomy."

A British study, reported in The Lancet of July 1, 1978, revealed that there was no significant difference in survival of breast cancer patients who had been treated by simple mastectomy alone or by simple mastectomy combined with radiotherapy. Both groups of patients were followed for a three—year period.

In the recently-published book, Current Trends in the Management of Breast Cancer (Johns Hopkins University Press, $14), Dr. Robinson Baker, Director of the Breast Clinic of the Johns Hopkins Hospital, writes, "Current methods of treatment of the typical patient with breast cancer are relatively ineffective, and approximately 50 per cent of these women will eventually die of the disease."

The field of preventive medicine has taken a bizarre turn. A report from the prestigious Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, appearing in the equally prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, described one single family with an unusually high frequency of cancer of the kidney. Geneticists who studied this family found a defect in some of their chromosomes which they claim is responsible for the tumors. On this basis, the researchers state that amniocentesis (the drawing of