World and Nation

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Study Finds Rise in Choice of Double Mastectomies

More women with breast cancer are choosing to have their healthy breast surgically removed along with their affected breast, a new study has found. Almost 5 percent of patients decided to have the radical procedure in 2003, up from just under 2 percent in 1998.

The study, published in The Journal of Clinical Oncology online, analyzed data from only a small fraction of the estimated 200,000 women who receive breast cancer diagnoses in the United States each year. If the figures are accurate, 8,000 to 10,000 patients each year may be electing to have the procedure, called a contralateral prophylactic mastectomy.

“Some people may think it’s kind of crazy, but you don’t know what you’re going to do until you yourself are faced with the situation,” said Darcy Long, 44, of Maple Grove, Minn., who had a double mastectomy after breast cancer was diagnosed in her right breast last July.

From the start, Long said, “There was no question in my mind: I was going to have a mastectomy on both sides. I wanted to maximize my survivability, and I didn’t want to ever think that I hadn’t done everything that I possibly could to prevent this from coming back.”

The study’s lead author, Dr. Todd M. Tuttle, chief of surgical oncology at the University of Minnesota Medical School, started the study because so many patients were coming to him requesting the procedure. Still, Tuttle said, he was surprised by the increase in contralateral prophylactic mastectomies, an upward trend that shows no sign of leveling off and is occurring even as the practice of breast-conserving surgery is expanding.

Thompson Links Deaths of Daughter and Schiavo

In his public life, former Sen. Fred D. Thompson had long refrained from speaking about the death of his daughter from an accidental drug overdose in 2002, an episode that friends and colleagues said had played into his decision not to seek re-election to the Senate in 2002.

But on Monday, when questioned at a news conference about his reaction to the Terri Schiavo case, Thompson opened up about the death, suggesting the Schiavo matter had particular resonance for him because of how his daughter, Elizabeth Panici, known as Betsy, had died.

“Obviously, I knew about the Schiavo case,” he said. “I had to face a situation like that in my own personal life with my own daughter.”

Thompson was visibly flustered by the question.

“I am a little bit uncomfortable about that because it is an intensely personal thing with me,” he said. “These things need to be decided by the family. And I was at that bedside. And I had to make those decisions with the rest of my family.”

Thompson was asked about the Schiavo case on a visit to Florida shortly after he announced his candidacy in September, and his apparent lack of familiarity with the matter led some to question how familiar he was with important issues as he embarked on his presidential run.

Porsche Seen Likely To Gain VW Merger

A 47-year-old German law is the only roadblock that stands between Porsche and its long-sought goal of taking over Volkswagen. On Tuesday, the law is likely to be swept away.

The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg is expected to strike down the so-called Volkswagen Law, a statute devised by the German government to protect the auto giant from an unwanted takeover.

While such a decision would be greeted as a significant milestone in Europe’s development of an open market, it would be even more momentous in the way it reshapes the German auto industry.

After Porsche is free to increase its voting stake in Volkswagen, analysts predicted, it will move to become VW’s majority owner — a small, but highly profitable maker of sports cars swallowing a company 14 times its size.

It would be a classic David-and-Goliath tale, if this Goliath were not synonymous with the tiny Beetle.

Porsche has been buying shares in Volkswagen for two years, and it has made no secret of its goal. It has even arranged a $14 billion credit line for additional stock purchases, though Porsche executives insist they are under no pressure to raise their stake and in no hurry to do so.

One Person’s Trash Is Another’s Lost Masterpiece

It’s hardly a place you would expect to find a $1 million painting.

But one March morning four years ago, Elizabeth Gibson was on her way to get coffee, as usual, when she spotted a large and colorful abstract canvas nestled between two big garbage bags in front of the Alexandria, an apartment building on the northwest corner of Broadway and 72nd Street in Manhattan.

“I had a real debate with myself,” said Gibson, a writer and self-professed Dumpster diver. “I almost left it there because it was so big, and I kept thinking to myself, ‘Why are you taking this back to your crammed apartment?’”

But, she said, she felt she simply had to have the 38-by-51-inch painting, because “it had a strange power.”

Art experts would agree with her. As it turns out, the painting was “Three People,” a 1970 canvas by the celebrated Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo that was stolen 20 years ago and is the subject of an FBI investigation.

Experts say the painting — a largely abstract depiction of a man, a woman and an androgynous figure in vibrant purples, oranges and yellows — is in miraculously good condition and worth about $1 million. On Nov. 20, it is to go on the block at Sotheby’s as one of the highlights of a Latin American art auction.