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Life Lessons: Lumpectomy vs. mastectomy

Life Lessons Think Pink

It's a decision more than 232,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer will have to make in this country this year: whether to have a lumpectomy or mastectomy.

"I have girlfriends that have gone through this unfortunately. Some chose a lumpectomy. Some chose a mastectomy," Jennifer Kajcienski, a breast cancer survivor says.

But Dr. Shelly Hwang says more and more women are opting for mastectomies.

"There's this trend toward women just doing more. So if they have a choice between lumpectomy and mastectomy, they'll choose to have a mastectomy," Dr. Hwang explains.

The latest numbers show 70 percent of those women don't have a proven medical reason.

That's where Dr. Hwang hopes a new study she led at Duke University could help.

The team analyzed more than 112,00 women with early-stage breast cancer, about half of whom had a lumpectomy with radiation and the other half underwent a mastectomy.

"You would think the more surgery you did, the more aggressive you were, the better patients would do from their breast cancer. But we found that that wasn't actually true," Dr. Hwang said.

Those who received less-invasive treatment in all age groups had improved survival rates.

"For the majority of women who have the choice, they don't need to feel like they are being pressured to do the more aggressive surgery to get a better outcome," Dr. Hwang said.

After three rounds of chemo, Kajcienski's lump disappeared without surgery. But she says if it came down to it, she'd do whatever it takes to make sure she survives breast cancer.

"I mean, we can live without parts of our body. Our kids and our families need us," she said.

While a lumpectomy may prove to be more advantageous to most with early-stage breast cancer, the authors of the study say a double mastectomy could make more sense for a woman with a strong family history of cancer or for those who've tested positive for genetic mutations, as was the case for Angelina Jolie.


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