When is Breast Cancer An Acceptable Side Effect?
I was part of a very frustrating conversation today. A friend of a friend of mine was talking about how she has been put on HRT by her gynaecologist as she was feeling depressed and had ‘gone off her husband’. Her gynaecologist had said that the benefits outweigh the risks, the one risk being breast cancer. She felt that if you are going to get cancer, then you are, and there is nothing you can do about it. I told her that I disagree and that lifestyle and choosing to take medications that are known to be carcinogenic, as the good doctor said, create avoidable risks that can make all the difference.
She asked me if I thought smoking was a risk factor for cancer too. I was taken back by her question, which was clearly her provocative intention. I replied that yes of course, smoking is a risk factor. She said that she disagreed as her grandmother died at 94 and was a smoker. She then asked if I thought eggs were a risk factor too, confusing heart disease with cancer. She was grappling for justification for her decision and I couldn’t, with the knowledge I have, just support her in her delusion. There is cancer in her family and her trusted gynaecologist had given her a biased argument for her to take HRT knowing the risk.
Somewhere along the line her education on the subject has been misguided or perhaps she has chosen exactly what she wanted to hear for the vanity that HRT promises. I decided to step out of the conversation, as I knew she was not open at all to another opinion, despite the fact that I was actually carrying in my arms a big Open University textbook, Understanding Cancers, which I happened to have with me.
Perhaps gynaecologists just know from experience that there are a proportion of women that are prepared to take HRT, despite the risks, and they are providing a service for them – fulfilling a market need – just like I am when I offer a safe and natural alternative. After all, patients have a choice even if there isn’t a one-stop informed specialist that women can go to where they will be offered all options, including referral to a homeopath like me, rather than being prescribed one drug and told despite the risks, it is worth taking.
A patient of mine who died last year from secondary breast cancer also trusted her doctors. She was given three rounds of IVF having been told it was completely safe with her history of breast cancer. While she was pregnant. the cancer spread to her liver, bones and lungs. Miraculously she survived until her son was four years old.
How do you balance benefits and risks of medications and make important decisions about your health? Whose opinion do you trust? Let’s discuss this topic and see where it takes us….