Since 2018, Canadian surgeons have performed hundreds of “gender-affirming” mastectomies on minors as young as 14, says the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI).
According to data compiled for The National Post by the Institute, of the 4,071 visits involving double mastectomies or breast reductions reported over the past half-decade, 303 involved teens 17 and younger, and 299 patients were 18.
Hospitalizations and day surgery visits for gender reassignment mastectomies have also risen sharply since 2018, from 536 in 2018, to 985 in 2022.
According to CIHI, 76 of the 536 hospital visits for transgender reassignment mastectomies in 2018 involved 18-year-olds and younger (14%).
That age group accounted for 18% of visits for mastectomies (174 out of 991) in 2022 and 14% of visits (135 out of 985) in 2023.
The dip last year occurred as hospitals grappled with pandemic-driven surgical backlogs, excluding Québec hospitals as well as surgeries performed in private clinics.
However, the overall rise in gender reassignment surgeries reflects a dramatic increase in the number of minors who received a referral to specialized gender identity clinics across the country.
“But the private clinics just kept churning them through,” a doctor familiar with “gender-affirming” care told The National Post anonymously.
“The fact that you can’t get the numbers from private clinics. It’s very cloak-and-dagger,” they said.
One study involving 174 ‘gender-diverse’ minors referred to Canadian clinics said most were 15 or 16 at the time of their referral. Only a third (34%) of those born female received a referral for ‘top surgery.’
Mississauga’s McLean Clinic, who called its surgeons “industry pioneers” for ‘top surgery,’ received 50% to 70% of patients after applying for OHIP funding.
“They’re still billing OHIP. That’s tax dollars. That should be publicly accessible information. We need to see these numbers and ask questions,” said the doctor.
“If this was just about the schools, and just about kids being allowed to wear what they want and say what they want and be called whatever name they want and it stopped there, who would care? But medicine got involved.”
Ontario’s Health Ministry did not respond to a request for comment by The National Post on the number of OHIP approvals for “gender-affirming” mastectomies for minors in the most recent year available.
While most provinces cover ‘top surgery’ costs, including mastectomies, not all cover the several thousands in additional costs for “chest contouring” liposuction to give patients a more masculine look.
According to the McLean Clinic’s website, a double mastectomy involves two incisions below the chest area.
“The skin is then lifted to surgically remove the breast tissue underneath,” it said. Afterwards, surgeons remove, resize and reposition them “to suit the new masculine appearance of the chest.”
Another doctor familiar with gender reassignment surgeries told The National Post anonymously that patients “regret [their decision] later on in life.”
“If we know that people can come to this realization that maybe this may not have been the best decision for them, if that takes place after five years or 10 years, we don’t have all the information to allow patients to make an informed decision,” they said.
“I’m always looking at the why, and because that hasn’t been answered yet, that’s what leads to my ambivalence,” they added.
“What all this says to me is that we need to be much more thoughtful in our approach and in our assessments.”