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Getting tested or treated for a life-threatening disease is nerve-racking for anyone, but it can be all the more so when outside of your home country.

Japan’s approach to breast cancer, with the annual death toll exceeding 10,000 (lower than typical rates in the West) is unique to some degree, what with the country’s egalitarian health-care system and particularly its long-standing custom of surgeons doing all the work. Experts say that surgeons here do everything from making a diagnosis to performing surgery to even prescribing medication.

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