Oncology social workers are the change makers in the breast cancer patient’s world, which has suddenly contracted after diagnosis and transformed her life into something unrecognizable, confusing, and frightening. These multi-talented professionals help patients to navigate the new world and advocate for themselves. They often know about their patient’s experiences in an intimate and comprehensive way that other professionals involved in patient care do not.
One of these amazing women, Hester Hill Schnipper, the program manager emeritus of oncology social work at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard Medical School, has just written an excellent article on patient consent in the mastectomy setting.
“Recently I have been in several very disturbing conversations with women who have recently had breast surgeries at other hospitals. In each case, a woman underwent a mastectomy, or bilateral mastectomies, but awakened to find that the specifics were not what she had anticipated.
Through the years, I have known only two women who regretted what they had done and both were able to alter their first choice. One, who had opted for no reconstruction, went back two years later to have that surgery. The second, who had chosen reconstruction, opted later to have the implants removed and go flat.”
Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C, Mastectomy Patients Deserve Honesty and Full Disclosure about Reconstruction Options (editor’s bold)
I really took heart when I read Hester’s article because so far, we haven’t heard from many medical professionals who are willing to address flat denial publicly. The medical community at large is finally taking notice! This is clearly due in large part to recent media and social media coverage of the issue, and at its core, is the product of so many individual women pouring their hearts and souls into this work. And that includes each and every individual woman who has shared her story with Not Putting on a Shirt (archived here on the blog under the “Survivor Stories” category).
This is how we move forward to a better culture of consent for mastectomy patients – with the help from our friends in the medical community who are brave enough to speak out in support of their patients.
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