The first world conference on breast cancer has featured an important debate over whether or not women with a breast cancer related gene should have mastectomies. Some argue that because eighty percent of women who carry the gene will have breast cancer, they should have mastectomies. Others argue that mastectomies are an extreme step which force women to mutilate themselves even though undergoing the procedure is not necessarily a proven prevention measure. Often, removing a tumor is enough to prevent the disease from spreading. Bella Abzug, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and leader of the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) in New York, has been battling breast cancer for four years. She argued at the conference, held in Kingston, Canada, that many women were unnecessarily undergoing the procedure. She further commented, “There is a lot of fortune-telling and bookmaking going on.”
The conference has brought together representatives from over thirty countries to battle the disease, which claims one million lives per year. When the conference ends on July 17th, participants are expected to adopt a worldwide action strategy for battling the disease.