“Will I survive?”
“What kind of treatment will I need?”
“Will I lose my breast?”
The last question has an emotional impact on a woman. But still, studies show many women with early stage breast cancer choose a mastectomy over a lumpectomy that would allow them to keep their breasts. The downside of a lumpectomy is a woman must go through radiation.
But Dr. Paul Brock, a Harbin Clinic surgeon, says 70 percent of the breast cancer patients he sees choose the lumpectomy over the mastectomy.
“When we look at all the data across the board, mastectomy and lumpectomy patients that are equal-stage, their survival curves are unchanged by what they do with the breast,” Brock said.
A new study conducted by North Carolina’s Duke University shows that survival rates among women who choose lumpectomy over mastectomy are 19 percent higher.
The researchers studied 112,000 cases of Stage I and Stage II breast cancer in California that resulted in either a mastectomy or a lumpectomy plus radiation therapy.
The study discovered that in the first three years following surgery, women who had mastectomies were more likely to die from heart disease and other diseases compared with women who had lumpectomies.
Women older than 50 saw the biggest benefit. Their risk of dying from breast cancer during the follow-up was 14 percent lower than women with similar cancers who had a mastectomy.
Some women choose mastectomy so they can avoid radiation.
“Some patients may have initial fears of radiation therapy,” said Dr. J.C. Abdou, with Harbin Clinic Radiation Oncology. “With modern techniques, radiation therapy for breast cancer is generally well tolerated, with the main side effect being temporary skin irritation.”
The key to choosing the right treatment is education, Adbou said. “We find that after meeting with both the surgeon and radiation oncologist, patients are able to grasp a good understanding of their cancer and treatment options,” he said. “Although some patients may also require chemotherapy and/or anti-estrogen therapy, this does not influence the type of surgery chosen.”
Adbou said the study reports better cure rates with a combination of lumpectomy and radiation over a mastectomy and “with better survival rates and allowing a woman to keep her breast, it appears to be a winning combination.”