MONDAY, Jan. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Breast-conserving surgery for early stage breast cancers may result in better survival than mastectomy, according to a new study.
For those with early stage breast cancer, "lumpectomy is just as effective if not more effective than mastectomy," said researcher Dr. Shelley Hwang, chief of breast surgery at Duke Cancer Institute in Durham, N.C.
"There are lots of women who think the more [treatment] they do, the better they will do," she said. "This refutes that."
The findings, published online Jan. 28 in the journal Cancer, are especially strong for women over 50 with hormone-sensitive cancers, the researchers found.
Earlier research had also concluded that the two procedures are similarly effective, but Hwang's is a more "real-world" study.
Hwang's team looked at 14 years of data from the California Cancer Registry, following more than 112,000 women with early stage breast cancer (stages 1 or 2) between 1990 and 2004. Ages ranged from 39 to 80.
More than half (55 percent) had lumpectomy and radiation, while 45 percent had mastectomy (complete breast removal) alone.
Hwang compared lumpectomy and radiation with mastectomy alone, not mastectomy plus radiation. "We wanted to look at early stage disease, and those patients typically don't get radiation after mastectomy," she said.
The researchers tracked the women's progress for a median of more than nine years (half followed longer, half less). During that time, more than 31,000 women died, nearly 40 percent of them from breast cancer. The others died of other causes.
For the first three years after treatment, those who had a mastectomy had a higher risk of dying from heart disease and other ailments than those who had lumpectomy. This may indicate that the women who underwent lumpectomy were generally healthier, Hwang said.
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