Semantics: How To Take Your Lumps.

I have a problem with some of the words used around breast cancer. Words like ‘mastectomy,’ ‘lumpectomy’ & ‘breast-sparing surgery’ may mean something useful to surgeons & other physicians, but they seem a tad euphimistic to me. In the first place, the phrase “breast-sparing surgery” is a classic oxymoron. There is no such thing as breast surgery that spares the breast. Not having surgery would spare the breast. In fact, no cancer would spare us entirely.

And what, precisely, is a lumpectomy? The excision of a lump, right? And a lump is, what, about the size of a large marble or, tops, a golf ball, yes? NOT! No, no, no, folks. A ‘lump’ is whatever the surgeon has to cut out to get all the crap out of you. It may be anything from a pea to just short of a total mastectomy. My ‘lump’ comprised half of my right breast. So, probably it would have been more accurate at least to call it a partial mastectomy. But that’s not my point. My point is that these “-ectomy” words are meaningless in everyday semantics. I’m reminded of what my mother used to say: Let’s call a spade a shovel. In other words, let’s cut the crap with these euphemistic terms & use a medical term that actually means something. Like, say, the word amputation. There’s a good, hearty word. Makes much more sense. If they cut off part or all of your leg, after all, they call it an amputation, which is an ugly, violent removal of a rather significant part of your body. So, if they cut off part or all of your breast, that would also be an amputation, right? Works for me.

After they cut off part or all of your breast, a pathologist analyzes the cells & writes a report, which includes, among other salient information about how lethal your cancer was, the exact dimensions of your excised tissue. Mine was about the size of a 3GB Ipod Nano, or a cell phone, or a bar of bath soap or two boxes of Chiclets. Not lump-like in the least. More slab-like, I thought. Hmmm.

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This entry was written by Kathi, posted on Thursday, January 15, 2009 at 06:01 pm, filed under Diagnosis, Recurrence, Screening, Health & Healthcare, Surgery & Reconstruction and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

2 Responses to “Semantics: How To Take Your Lumps.”

  1. I love your description of the surgery we have as amputations. It is so much more correct, partial amputation, whole amputation…..good thinking.



  2. Thanks for the kudos on the blog name! As one of my guy pals likes to say to me, “I’m glad you’re having fun with breast cancer.”

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