Breast Cancer: Lumpectomy May Be Better than Mastectomy in Some Cases

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • When diagnosed with breast cancer, some women faced with breast cancer will choose a mastectomy, or removal of the entire breast, believing that the more tissue that is removed, the better their chances for survival. But a new study shows that this isn’t always true, and in some cases, survival rates increase with lumpectomy, removal of just the tumor, followed up by radiation.


    The research study was completed at Duke Cancer Institute and the results will be published in the journal Cancer during the week of January 28, 2013. Lead researcher, Shelly Hwang stated, “The findings in this study should reassure women that among all age groups and tumor types, lumpectomy continues to be an excellent choice for women with small, early breast cancers.” [1]

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    Researchers analyzed over 112,000 cases of stage I and stage II breast cancer diagnosed between 1990 and 2004. Patients had either a lumpectomy and radiation or a mastectomy and all received follow up care until at least 2009. The results of the study showed:

    • Women who had a mastectomy were more likely to die from heart disease and other diseases within the first three years after surgery
    • Women who had a lumpectomy plus radiation had a better survival rate – they were 19 percent less likely to die from any cause
    • For women over 50, those having a lumpectomy had a 14 percent lower chance of dying from breast cancer and a 13 percent lower chance of dying from any cause during the follow up years.

    While the research showed a significant increase in survival rates of those having a lumpectomy plus radiation, the reasons behind this increase are not clear and researchers did not look into causes for the results.


    One such reason is that those who elected to have lumpectomies may have been in better health to begin with.  Another reason may have been better access to health care. Researchers also did not take into account whether the participants had any other pre-existing medical conditions.


    Lumpectomies are not recommended for everyone with breast cancer. Those with large tumors, more than one tumor in the same breast or have gone through previous breast radiation are not normally candidates for lumpectomies. In addition, women with certain genetic mutations may not benefit from a lumpectomy. But these cases only amount to 20 percent of those diagnosed with early stage breast cancer according to Shelley Hwang. The remaining 80 percent are candidates for lumpectomies.


    While the study doesn’t answer all questions or provide any absolutes, it does offer hope for many women who believed that mastectomy was their only, or best option.




    [1] “Breast Cancer Survival Better After Lumpectomy Than Mastectomy,” 2013, Jan. 28, Staff Writer, Medical News Today


    “Breast-saving Cancer Treatment May Improve Survival,” 2013, Jan. 28, Rachel Rettner, MyHealthNewsDaily, Today on NBC

Published On: January 28, 2013