CBS News recently posted an article entitled “Top surgery drastically improves quality of life for young transgender people, study finds” written by C Mandler. The article describes a study by Northwestern Medicine that surveyed 36 girls and young women three months after having elective double mastectomies.  The study claims that the girls experienced significantly less “chest dysphoria” than they had prior to surgery, but is it true that removing the girls’ breasts drastically improved their quality of life?

“The quality of life of young transmasculine people dramatically improves after receiving top surgery — a mastectomy procedure that removes breast tissue.”
C. Mandler

False. Completely make believe.

The subjects of the study, who were ages 13 to 24 (with a mean age of 18.6), were asked how they felt about having their breasts removed. Although the headline and content of the CBS News article claim the 36 girls surveyed experienced improved “quality of life” after breast removals, the study did not analyze the subjects’ levels of depression, anxiety, or suicidality before and after the surgeries, nor explore any measures that were not focused on the patients’ thoughts about their breasts and whether their “external appearance represents their gender identity.” 

Chest dysphoria is “distress related to the development of breasts,” according to the researchers. The study mentions that the chest-binding practices girls experiencing dysphoria use “can be physically harmful” and cause complications, including “skin irritation, musculoskeletal pain, and shortness of breath.” The providers of “gender-affirming care” encourage girls to either continue binding or cut off their breasts. In 2020, a year when many hospitals were limiting elective surgeries due to Covid restrictions, 8,548 girls and women received “top surgery,” a 15% increase over 2019.

According to Dr. Sumanas Jordan, the director of the gender pathways program at Northwestern Medicine, “Patients who choose gender-affirming top surgery feel better about their bodies, and it enhances their quality of life.” What does Dr. Jordan mean by “feel better” or “quality of life”? The study used a “Chest Dysphoria Measure (CDM),” meaning that the outcomes were focused on the participants’ feelings about their breasts, rather than their overall mental health. To calculate the CDM, researchers measured responses to statements like “I worry that people are looking at my chest,” “I avoid using locker rooms because of my chest,” and “I like looking at my chest in the mirror.” Dr. Jordan’s study references an earlier study that acknowledges that the chest dysphoria scale “is not yet validated, and may not represent distress or correlate with validated measures of quality of life, depression, anxiety, or functioning.”

The study asked the patients how they felt about their chests three months after their surgeries, but did not include long-term follow-up with the patients. Although “surgical complications were minimal,” the patients were likely still recovering from the surgeries, and long-term consequences, which can include chronic pain, nerve damage, and regret, were unknown. 

Young girls cannot comprehend the long-term consequences of having their healthy breasts amputated. Independent Women’s Forum recently featured the story of Daisy Strongin, a young woman who had her breasts removed and took testosterone in an effort to look more masculine, but desisted when she realized that she wanted to marry and have children. Although the testosterone permanently lowered her voice, she had not taken it long enough to cause uterine and vaginal atrophy and was able to have a baby. She cannot breastfeed her child, though. 

Rather than pushing activist-written junk “studies,” society should encourage girls and young women in the grips of gender dysphoria and body dysmorphia to listen to detransitioners such as Grace Lidinsky-Smith and Chloe Cole share the profound regret they feel after removing their healthy breasts. Chloe recently spoke at the U.S. Capitol, saying:

At 15 I went under the knife for a radical double mastectomy, the kind that breast cancer patients get. This was after I was sexually assaulted at school, by a male student. I told myself to “man up,” but I lived my life in constant hatred of my breasts. I started binding, which deformed my breasts as well as my ribcage. I was afraid, and couldn’t wait to finally protect my body from the threat of further molestation. At 16, I understood what had happened to me, and that I had made a huge mistake. I realized that the beauty of motherhood was stolen from me by medical professionals who my family entrusted me to.  I realized, after maturing a bit more, that a child does not in fact “know who they are” at 12 years old. I realized that I wanted to be what I always was and forever will be—a woman. 

To learn more about the devastating impact of gender ideology on families and young women, read and watch the stories told in IWF’s powerful Identity Crisis series.