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More survive breast cancer without full mastectomy

30 January 2017, 3:25:55

Health Desk:Surgery that spares women the ordeal of losing their breasts could be more effective at warding off cancer, a study has found.

Women with early-stage breast cancer were more likely to survive if they had ‘breast-conserving’ surgery and radiotherapy than if they had a full mastectomy, the researchers said.

Their findings could mean thousands more women could keep their breasts following a cancer diagnosis.

The study of 130,000 patients – the largest ever conducted – found certain women were up to a third more likely to survive if the offending lump alone was removed, rather than the whole breast.

Women have been offered breast- conserving therapy, also known as a ‘lumpectomy’, for years.

But researchers have been divided over whether it is the best option.

Although it is less invasive, some surgeons have worried that simply removing the tumour might leave cancerous cells in place, which could spark secondary tumours.

The new results that to be presented today at the European Cancer Congress in Amsterdam, suggest the success of breast-conserving therapy depends on the stage of the disease. Women with tumours of up to around 2in and no cancer spread were more likely to survive with breast-conserving therapy than with a mastectomy, the researchers found.

For women with a slightly more advanced form, who had small tumours but more cancerous cells in their lymph nodes, breast-conserving therapy was equally as effective as mastectomies.

Study leader Professor Sabine Siesling, of the Netherlands Comprehensive Cancer Organisation, said: ‘A considerably superior survival, both specific to breast cancer and from any cause of death, was found for breast-conserving therapy in the early stage.

‘We believe this information will have potential to greatly improve shared treatment decision-making for future breast cancer patients. However, we would like to emphasise that these results do not mean that mastectomy is a bad choice.

‘For patients for whom radiotherapy is not suitable or feasible … for whom the risk of side effects of radiotherapy is high, or who have the prospect of a poor aesthetic outcome following breast conserving therapy, a mastectomy may still be the preferable treatment option.’

Rachel Rawson, of the charity Breast Cancer Care, said: ‘It suggests for some patients, taking out the cancer without removing the whole breast may offer a better chance of survival. However … radiotherapy given alongside the surgery can be gruelling, and for some women a mastectomy will always be the best option.’

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