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Study: Breast-conserving surgery offers better survival than mastectomy for cancer

A new study has shown breast-conserving surgery improves survival in some women, as opposed to mastectomy. Photo by Nevit Dilmen/Wikimedia
A new study has shown breast-conserving surgery improves survival in some women, as opposed to mastectomy. Photo by Nevit Dilmen/Wikimedia

May 5 (UPI) -- Women who undergo breast-conserving surgery and radiation therapy for breast cancer are more likely to survive the disease than those who receive a full mastectomy, a study published Wednesday by JAMA Surgery found.

Those treated with radiation plus breast-conserving surgery, in which only the cancerous tumor is removed and all healthy tissue in the breast is preserved, had a five-year survival rate of more than 95%, the data showed.

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In addition, 87% of these patients still were alive 10 years after treatment, the researchers said.

However, women who had radiation therapy and a full mastectomy, in which the entire breast is removed, had a five-year survival rate of 86% and a 10-year survival rate of 72%, according to the researchers.

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Eighty-five percent of those who had a full mastectomy alone, with no radiation therapy, survived for five years after treatment and 67% were alive 10 years later.

"If there are no specific ... reasons for taking the whole breast, conserving the [woman's] own breast and giving them radiotherapy afterward is clearly the recommended choice," study co-author Dr. Jana de Boniface told UPI in an email.

"There are no survival gains [achieved] by performing more surgery than necessary," said de Boniface, an associate professor of surgery at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.

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Breast-conserving surgery has become the procedure of choice for breast cancer in recent years in the face of study data suggesting it is as effective, if not more, at addressing the disease, she said.

However, mastectomy still is performed in women considered at high risk for cancer recurrence, according to the American Cancer Society.

For their study, de Boniface and her colleagues compared the approaches in nearly 49,000 women in Sweden, just over 29,000 of whom had breast conserving surgery plus radiation therapy.

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The remainder had either mastectomy with radiation therapy or mastectomy alone.

Fewer than 2% of women who had breast-conserving surgery plus radiation therapy died from breast cancer within five years of treatment and fewer than 4% died within 10 years, the data showed.

Meanwhile, nearly 10% of those who had a mastectomy plus radiation therapy died from breast cancer within five years and almost 16% died within 10 years.

"If technically feasible -- and oncoplastic techniques give us a lot more options to conserve the breast -- breast-conserving surgery is in many ways the better choice, except for women with significant hereditary risk [for recurrence]," de Boniface said.

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