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Men and Women May Face Cancer Differently

Posted 9/24/2015

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  I am kind of fascinated by this article from The Wall Street Journal that suggests men and women face/approach cancer differently. Very honestly, for my entire professional career, I have worked with many more women than men, but I have talked with enough men to have some general sense of their views and coping. And my anecdotal evidence does not support these conclusions.

The article reports a study done by the Marketing Department (note that this was not a scientific study) at Memorial Sloan Kettering. Using social media, they examined the responses and choices made by women newly diagnosed with breast cancer and men newly diagnosed with prostate cancer. They found that men relied more on scientific/medical evidence and women were more influenced by feelings, fears, and discussions with family and friends. Specifically, they found that women were more apt to opt for more aggressive treatment, fearing recurrence, even if there was no evidence that this more aggressive treatment would lower the recurrence risk.

  It is disturbing to have these old gender stereotypes revived. You know, the women feel and men think ones. We know that is not true, and I hope someone looks further at these results.

  Note: I suspect this is associated with the growing rate of women opting for bilateral mastectomies when there is no medical reason to do so. We know that there is an alarming (to me and many others in the medical community) incidence of women choosing unnecessary surgery, thinking that mastectomy or mastectomies would lower their recurrence risk and keep them healthy. We know that sometimes a mastectomy is the treatment of medical choice, but often it is not, and, yet, many women make this choice.

  Men with new prostate cancer must also make tough decisions. Sometimes, if the cancer is found early, the medical suggestion is watchful waiting. That is just fine with some men who are pleased to avoid invasive treatment, but some others find this very anxiety-producing. Treatment usually means either radiation or surgery, and both bring big risks of possible impotence and incontinence. It is especially disturbing that the incidence of these unfortunate side effects seems to be larger than some men are told it might be.

  Here is the start of the article and a link to read more:

Men and Women Face Cancer Differently
Men are methodical while women distrust scientific data, a social-media study found

The study, commissioned by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, analyzed thousands of Internet posts in leading cancer forums and other online communities. Men with prostate cancer were generally found to be analytical, methodical and data-driven in assessing their options. They sought out the latest scientific studies and outcomes research, and tended to obtain several doctors’ opinions.

By contrast, women with breast cancer were typically distrustful of scientific data and even of their own physicians. Anxious that their cancer might return—and viewing any risk of recurrence, however small, as too great—many women favored aggressive treatment such as double mastectomy.

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