Approximately 75 % of women diagnosed with early stage breast cancer are candidates for either mastectomy or breast-conserving surgery (also called a partial mastectomy.)   Mastectomy is the removal of the entire breast, while breast-conserving surgery removes the cancerous tumor and part of the surrounding breast tissue. Breast-conserving surgery is usually followed by radiation therapy.

Data has long shown that survival outcomes to be similar whether a full or partial mastectomy is performed.  But, now a new study of California breast cancer survivors suggests that those who undergo breast-conserving surgery have the same, or even better, survival rates than who chose mastectomy.

Researchers analyzed information from more than 112,000 California women with early stage breast cancer between 1990 and 2004 who underwent breast-conserving surgery plus radiation, or mastectomy alone.

The data collected showed breast-conserving surgery patients age 50 or older with tumors that were sensitive to estrogen and progesterone, were 13 percent less likely to die of breast cancer than those who opted for mastectomy.

The study, however, did not take into account whether the women with mastectomies had other conditions that could have impacted the mortality rate.  And, as a group, those patients tended to have larger, more aggressive tumors.

While the results of the new study may prompt some women to consider a partial mastectomy over a full mastectomy, neither option can be heralded as the best treatment for every patient every time.  Individual factors such as tumor size, location, family history, and the woman’s personal preference will continue to be key in decision making.

Women, who don’t wish to go through weeks of radiation and repeated follow-up scans, may opt for full mastectomy. Some patients, especially those with a family history of breast cancer, may even decide to proactively have both breasts removed.

Every patient should talk openly with her surgeon to determine which option will best suit her health, lifestyle, and personal preference. Because, at the end of the day, each woman has to has to be comfortable with her own surgical choice for her own body.

Dr. Lytle Brown IV, MD, FACS, is a general surgeon with the Premier Surgical Associates office located at Parkwest Medical Center.  He is board certified in general surgery by the American Board of Surgery and a fellow of the American College of Surgeons.

About Premier Surgical Associates
Premier Surgical Associates is the Knoxville area’s largest surgical group, with 27 surgeons performing general, vascular, bariatric, breast and laparoscopic procedures. Premier has offices in Knoxville, Maryville, Jefferson City, Lenoir City, Sevierville, and Seymour.

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