“The Sex of Your Surgeon May Matter”

The NY Times reports on a study reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute by researchers at Columbia University.  The question they address concerned why the treatment of women similarly affected by breast cancer varied.   In particular, they looked after radiation treatment after lumpectomy, which is documented to be the better course of treatment. 

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 25% of women do not get the preferred treatment.  There were two sets of facts that made a difference:

1.  As earlier studies indicated, demographic factors mattered:  Older women, black women, unmarried women and those living outside urban areas were less likely to receive radiation.

But the new report looks at doctors behind the treatment, and it found:

2.  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. (Note: the study was of women treated in the US; it is not a comparison among countries.)

The article states,

Dr. Dawn L. Hershman, co-director of the breast program at the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at Columbia University, said … “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.’’

It seems important to know also whether the influence was evenly distributed over those with the unfortunate demographics.

And finally the article reveals a small tension between the author and the person doing the titles; while the title has the term ‘sex,’ the article uses ‘gender.’

11 thoughts on ““The Sex of Your Surgeon May Matter”

  1. Fascinating stuff. Sounds like something extremely important to teach to medical students. It would be very interesting, also, to investigate the reasons that the various surgeons give for their decisions/recommendations.

  2. That’s very interesting, I haven’t ever thought of that possibility. Thankfully I’ve never been in a situation such as that, but, I mean, it must be awfully hard to put your life in the hands of another person, but it must be even worse to later find out it was put on some sexist prick’s hands.
    Even if they are so subconsciouslly, lol.

    – λ

  3. zerOhvk, are you a feminist or sexist? I’m a woman yet I wouldn’t necessarily assume that because more women that received radiation had women doctors that the males were sexist pricks. Perhaps it has more to do with women being more sympathetic to their own gender. What if more men receive radiation for prostate cancer from male doctors? Would that make the women sexist bitches?

    Please don’t give feminism a bad name.

  4. You have to understand, you can only receive a certain amount of radiation treatment…and even with the radiation treatment which has very debilitating effects while going throught the treatment their is no guarantee that radiation will work…aside from prolonging the melee and enduring the suffering of the awful affects.

  5. With a regimen of regular chemotherapy (and chemo drugs are very good drugs nowadays) and a little of radiation, people are beating the odds and progress is made…but still not all cancers are alike.

  6. Not everybody is a candidate for radiation treatment…but there is hope …great progress has been made and more and more people are assailing the ailment. They’re is work rite now being done on people with the ailment for a “Blue ray” which oxygenates the cell and restores it or at least prevents it from growing…

  7. Consider this, we must become educated and garnar a greater understanding and at the same time lobby for rights for the people with and enduring and after the cure for the melee. Because it’s very hard to bring life back to normal after having endured the prolonged melee let alone get back into the job market…I a particular peeve with company’s that ask questions about medical issues…and you know when asked to bare witness to the truth you have to sign that you are telling the truth…there is too much abuse of people who live and want to recoup their lives where it left off…I suggest support organizations that help people regain their lives and livlihood back into society after being cured…

  8. I’m sorry if I couldn’t explain what I thought fully, and in case I offended you or anyone, I apologize, I was just trying to say what I thought about the issue, I just think that it would be crappy to be mistreated sometimes.
    No feminism or sexism implied, no need to get hostile, just saying what I though in an honest way.
    It was my first blog post ever, sorry it had to be a bad one to you.

    And please be a tad more reasonable about your reaction to opinions in the near future, if we both disagree with the situation, what’s there to discuss? Meh, forget about it.

    Take care.

    – λ

  9. zer– please don’t be discouraged by 3R’s intemperate response. I suspect you and 3R have different definitions of ‘sexism’, but it’s hard to draw out a reasonable discussion on something like that when there are accusations of ‘giving feminism a bad name’ flying around. But 3R does have a point that there may be alternative explanations of what’s going on that don’t involve the doctors being sexist pricks. So, let’s all go back to being nice. It’s not yet time to be not nice. (Bonus points for anyone who knows what movie I’m alluding to.)

  10. Damn, sounds familiar but I can’t say exactly, and also I just wanted to say I’m sorry for saying such harsh words, maybe I just misunderstood the whole article and responded very agressively, sorry about that, thanks for the reply Jender!

    – λ

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