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Health & Medicine Early Stage Breast Cancer Survival May be Better with Lumpectomy Than Mastectomy

Early Stage Breast Cancer Survival May be Better with Lumpectomy Than Mastectomy

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First Posted: Jan 28, 2013 08:38 AM EST
Cancer
It looks as if we're winning the battle against cancer among some populations. The annual cancer statistics report from the American Cancer Society has shown that there have been steady declines in cancer death rates for the past two years. (Photo : Flickr)

Mastectomies may not be as effective as patients once thought when it comes to early breast cancers. A new study to be published in the online journal Cancer has found that women with small early breast cancers may have a better chance of survival if they opt for lumpectomy plus radiation rather than mastectomy.

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The study, conducted by Shelley Hwang of the Duke Cancer Institute and her colleagues, examined data on over 112,000 cases of stage I and stage II breast cancer in California. These cases, diagnosed between 1990 and 2004, each resulted in either mastectomy or lumpectomy plus radiation therapy. The women were then followed up to 2009, and the researchers examined patterns between the type of treatment and survival rates.

The scientists found that in the first three years following surgery, women who had mastectomy were more likely to die from heart disease and other diseases compared with women who had lumpectomy. Overall, they found that women who had lumpectomy plus radiation were more likely to survive cancer than women who had mastectomy. It wasn't only for certain age groups or types of cancer, either. The researchers concluded that the same was true across all ages and cancer types.

Why these results are true, though, remains a mystery. The researchers did not investigate the reasons behind the results.  Nonetheless Hwang suggested that it was possible that the women who had lumpectomy were in generally better health that those who had mastectomy.

These results have wide implications for the way breast cancer is treated. Over the last 10 years, there has been a growing tendency for women diagnosed with breast cancer to opt for mastectomy even if they have small, early cancers. With these new findings, women may instead decide to choose lumpectomy.

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