Health Team

Study: Breast cancer patients opt for lumpectomies

Posted October 13, 2009 5:40 p.m. EDT
Updated October 13, 2009 6:52 p.m. EDT

After learning she had breast cancer, Denise Moscatiello thought she'd need major surgery.

“That’s the first thing that pops into your head, 'Oh my God, I’m going to need a mastectomy,’” she said.

But most women would prefer surgery to conserve more of the breast, like a lumpectomy, if it served them just as well.

“Mastectomy has persisted in the United States as a treatment, which raised concerns about whether or not surgeons were even offering a choice treatment,” said Dr. Monica Morrow, of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

Morrow was part of the research team that studied nearly 2,000 women with early-stage breast cancer about their choice of initial surgical treatment.

Researchers found that most patients followed their surgeon's recommendation and that more than 75 percent reported having breast-conserving surgery as initial surgical therapy instead of a mastectomy.

The study is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“I think the message is that surgeons pretty reliably recognize which women are best treated by mastectomy and that, if you're advised to undergo breast-conserving surgery or you're offered a choice, the lesser surgical procedure is one which is highly likely to work and provide a good outcome,” Morrow said.

The study showed that breast-conserving surgery is recommended for most women with early-stage breast cancer.

Moscatiello followed two surgeons’ recommendations to have a lumpectomy instead of a mastectomy.

“I didn't really feel like I was going to benefit by doing it the other way,” she said.

Researchers also found that second opinions did not vary much from the original surgeon's recommendation – differing in about 12 percent of the cases in which second opinions were received.