Many women diagnosed with breast cancer choose to have a mastectomy thinking it will remove the tumors as quickly as possible and give them the best chance of survival. But a new major study has found that women stand a better chance of surviving breast cancer if they don’t have this radical surgery.
If you are over 50 and have only the lump removed, followed by radiotherapy, you are almost a fifth more likely to survive the illness than patients who lose the whole breast.
Results of a ten-year research project conducted at Duke University looked at the records of 112,154 women diagnosed with breast cancer between 1994 and 2004. It showed that a less radical form of treatment – breast conservation surgery – is more effective.
It involves taking away the affected lump and then administering high doses of radiotherapy over a course of five or six weeks to ensure any remaining cancerous cells are killed. Women who had breast conservation surgery were 13 per cent more likely to survive the illness. But the results were even more promising in women over 50 whose survival odds were 19 per cent higher than those who had mastectomies.
It also found that women of all ages who had breast conservation surgery were a fifth less likely to die from other causes such as heart disease.
This study looked only at women diagnosed with breast cancer early – known as stages one or two. It did not include patients with advanced forms of the illness.
Experts believe radiotherapy may be far more effective at killing all cancerous cells than removing the entire breast.
Lead researcher Dr E Shelley Hwang, of the Duke Cancer Institute in North Carolina, said: ‘Our findings support the notion that less invasive treatment can provide superior survival to mastectomy in stage one or stage two breast cancer.
This study provides further reassurance allowing women to be more confident when making this decision.
‘More research is needed to confirm these results, and we urge anybody concerned to speak to their surgeon so they can make an informed decision, as every choice is personal.’
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