Top surgery improves quality of life for young transgender people, study finds

Quality of life for young trans men improves significantly after undergoing mastectomy — a mastectomy procedure that manages breast tissue — according to a Northwestern Medicine study.

The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Pediatrics on Monday, is the first to show that crop surgery “is associated with significant improvement in chest dysphoria, gender conflict, and body image in trans-masculine and non-binary adolescents and adults young,” Northwestern Medicine. said in a press release.

The study compared two groups of patients from 14 to 24: one group of 36 patients received top surgery, and a control group of 34 patients received gender affirming care, but did not receive top surgery. Three months after surgery, patients who received the procedure had significantly less chest dysphoria than before surgery, while patients in the control group experienced approximately the same levels of chest dysphoria as they did at the beginning of their care.

“When we compared the outcomes of patients who underwent gender affirming surgery to those who did not, we identified that surgery significantly improved quality of life for patients,” said Dr. Sumanas Jordan, director of the pathway program. gender at Northwestern Medicine.

A participant was seen holding a sign at the 2022 Queer Liberation March in NYC. / Credit: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images

Previous studies have also shown that chest dysphoria is a pervasive issue for trans and gender nonconforming youth. In a study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2021, researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center “concluded that chest dysphoria is a major source of distress and can be functionally disabling for trans-masculine youth.”

“This has been well documented in adult patients, but so far it has not been well described in teenagers and young adults,” said Jordan, who is also lead author of the Northwestern study.

American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Chase Strangio went viral on Twitter Monday after sharing his own experience with crop surgery, which he received in his mid-20s. “Not a day goes by that I don’t think about how it was the best thing I ever did for my survival,” the tweet read.

“I also had orthopedic knee surgery at 14 and often regret it. But I don’t see any NYT piece about orthopedic regrets,” he said, apparently referring to a New York Times article published Monday about access to surgeries gender affirmation for trans people.

Anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been on the rise in recent years, with transgender Americans specifically a political talking point. According to Bloomberg Law, “In the 2022 state legislative year, about 60% of proposed LGBTQ health-related bills aimed to ban or limit transgender health care,” and the stakes are high.

Access to gender affirming surgical care can be a matter of life or death for trans youth. A study published in the journal Pediatrics found that nearly 51% of female respondents with males attempted suicide, and the average youth suicide rate in the US is 9%, according to a 2022 UCLA study.

“It’s so important to be able to have evidence and treat them not based on politics, but based on science and medicine,” Jordan told the Chicago Tribune.

But access to gender affirming surgery can be a big step in improving the quality of life for trans people. An analysis of 56 peer-reviewed works by the What We Know Project found that in 93% of studies, gender transition improved the overall well-being of transgender respondents.

“Patients who choose gender affirming surgery feel better about their bodies, and it improves their quality of life,” said Jordan. “Our hope is that this study will now be used as a resource for teenagers, young adults and families who want to learn more about surgical transplant options.”

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