Medical advances are sometimes pretty amazing, and people’s reaction to them can be equally so. There are eleven people in the same family (cousins, siblings, etc.) who’ve elected to have their stomachs removed because they are at genetic risk for a very serious and deadly form of stomach cancer. With seemingly normal stomachs, these people all chose to have their stomachs surgically removed to eliminate the risk (reportedly as high as 75%) of this particular cancer.
Stomach removal is a pretty serious decision to make, but it seems somewhat understandable if facing the near certainty of a painful and protracted early death. Finding the genetic mutation in this family, scientists tested 19 members, and 12 of them had the mutation and 11 of them had the surgery. They are all doing fine at this time. The surgery, paid partially or in full by insurance, costs $65,000 to $85,000, and completely eliminates the possibility of contracting stomach cancer (obviously).
Unable to eat many foods or to eat much at one sitting, stomach removal patients lose a great deal of weight and do need to ensure they are getting enough nutrients, etc. that can no longer be absorbed through the stomach. Foods are not softened or broken down, these are functions of the stomach, so diet changes sometimes drastically and lifestyle is affected by the need for frequent small meals and nutritional supplements for life. Obviously, these family members decided that these were small prices to pay not to succumb to the same disease that had killed so many of their relatives.
Through the years I’ve heard of people having various healthy reproductive organs (ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes, even testicles) removed due to a strong family history of certain cancers; I also saw a show in which a woman had elected to have a double mastectemy of her then healthy breasts because so many women in her family had died of breast cancer.
With advances in technology, we may all one day have access to genetic screening that would alert us to potential life threatening cancer. One might hope that by that time there is another alternative to removing the offending organ, but if not, I wonder what I or you would do in such a situation.
The stomach removal story from a variety of news pages: http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,71190-0.html?tw=wn_index_7 and http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/sun/2006/may/25/566612045.html?Mike… and http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2006-06-18-stomach_x.htm