Two studies in Thursday's edition of The New England Journal of Medicine suggest that women who have early-stage breast cancer fare just as well by having the lump removed as they do by undergoing complete breast-removal surgery. "Women who have the breast conserved get back to their normal routines quicker," Patrick Borgen, a breast cancer surgeon at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, told ABCNEWS.com. "They get back to work quicker. They feel better about themselves."
The studies showed that a lumpectomy procedure, followed by radiation treatment, allows a woman with early-stage breast cancer to live just as long as she would if she had undergone a mastectomy to remove the entire breast. But only about half of all early-stage breast cancer cases in the United States are treated with lumpectomies, and many women aren't even informed that the less-invasive surgery is a safe option. "If a surgeon is really evaluating patients correctly and giving options correctly, breast-conserving therapy, or partial removal of the breast, would be performed in about 75% to 80% of women," Susan Troyan, surgical director of the Breast Care Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, told ABCNEWS.com. "There's no doubt that women in some areas, by some surgeons, are not getting the options they really should be given."
The studies showed that poor and uneducated women were the least likely to be told of cancer treatments other than mastectomy procedures. Even among college-educated women, 29% were not told of other treatment options by their physicians. Twelve states now require doctors to inform breast cancer patients of all available treatments so that those with early-stage disease can choose less drastic surgeries and avoid having a breast removed needlessly.