British doctors have been debating the ethicality of a common practice: screening tissue for cancer after breast-reduction surgery. While this may seem like a useful practice, patient awareness and subsequent treatment have come under scrutiny.
For the most part, patients are not told that their removed breast tissue will be tested for malignant cells. This has been justified by some because screenings rarely produce positive results, so telling a patient about the screening beforehand may rouse unwarranted anxiety. But ethicists argue that, regardless of likelihood, patients should be kept in the loop about anything and everything involving their bodies, arguing for informed consent.
Also ethically dubious is the action sometimes taken when cancer is found. There is currently no evidence that the further surgeries the reduction patients undergo is actually beneficial. A team of London-based breast surgeons have noted that it’s virtually impossible to identify exactly where in the breast the cancerous tissue was located because there is currently no practice of specimen orientation during the original reduction surgery.
Clearly, more deliberation is needed to establish a practice that is ethically and medically agreeable by all involved.
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