Less-invasive treatment may improve survival chances in early-stage breast cancer

Jan. 28, 2013 @ 08:50 AM

A lumpectomy and radiation may provide early-stage breast cancer patients with a better chance of survival than mastectomies, according to Duke Medicine Research.

The study, released today in the journal “Cancer,” explores the effectiveness of lumpectomies, in which only the tumor and surrounding tissue are removed, as opposed to mastectomies, which remove the whole breast.

Dr. E. Shelley Hwang, chief of breast surgery at Duke Cancer Institute and lead author of the study, said in a news release that the findings, although observational, “do suggest the possibility that women who were treated with less-invasive surgery had improved survival compared to those treated with mastectomy for Stage I or Stage II breast cancer.”

The research team used 14 years of data collected by the California Cancer Registry, including 112,154 women between 1990 and 2004. Of those, 61,771 received a lumpectomy and radiation, while 50,383 got mastectomy without radiation.

The study indicates that women age 50 and older diagnosed with hormone-sensitive tumors got the most benefit from choosing lumpectomy and radiation. Data suggested that they were 13 percent less likely to die of breast cancer.

The rate of women choosing lumpectomy with radiation has climbed in recent decades. That uptick is attributed to randomized trials that have shown that lumpectomies with radiation are as effective as mastectomy in treating early-stage cancer, the release stated.

But younger women with very early cancers have followed a new trend, opting for mastectomy.

“The hopeful message is that lumpectomy plus radiation was an effective alternative to mastectomy for early-stage disease, regardless of age or tumor type,” Hwang said in the release. “Our study supports that even patients we thought might benefit less from localized treatment, like younger patients with hormone-resistant disease, can remain confident in lumpectomy as an equivalent and possibly better treatment option.”

The National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program supported the Duke Medicine study.

On the Web: dukemednews.org