Women with early stage (I or II) breast cancer have a difficult decision to make regarding their treatment options which generally are two: breast-conserving lumpectomy with radiation or removing the entire breast with a mastectomy.
A new study which found that lumpectomy is just as effective or more effective than mastectomy, may make this decision easier.
"There are lots of women who think the more [treatment] they do, the better they will do. This refutes that," said lead researcher Dr. Shelley Hwang, chief of breast surgery at Duke Cancer Institute in Durham, N.C.
The percent of women with early breast cancers choosing a mastectomy has risen recently, after a dip in previous years. These findings may reverse that trend, say other experts.
After analyzing 14 years of data from more than 112,000 women with early stage breast cancer, the researchers discovered that the two procedures were similarly effective, but in some cases lumpectomy increased the odds of survival.
The largest increase was in women over 50 with estrogen-receptor positive cancer. They had a 13 percent lower risk of death from breast cancer and a 19 percent lower risk of death from any cause than those who had a mastectomy.
It is important to note that not all women with early stage breast cancers can have a lumpectomy. Among the exceptions are those whose cancers are too large, or those who have different cancers in the same breast.
While the study does arm women with valuable information. Hwang said she doesn’t want women who chose mastectomy to think they did the wrong thing." At the end of the day, personal preference trumps everything else. I fully support the patient's options to choose the best treatment for themselves."