Certain breast cancer patients may benefit more from having breast-conserving therapy (BCT), also known as a ‘lumpectomy’, instead of a mastectomy, a large-scale study has revealed.
Women with early-stage breast cancer have higher survival rates if they have ‘breast-conserving’ surgery to remove the tumour alongside radiotherapy, instead of removal of the entire breast.
The Dutch study, which assessed 130,000 breast cancer patients, found that for certain women - those over 50 and with other health issues - survival rates increased by up to a third if they took the non-mastectomy treatment plan.
According to the NHS, surgery is usually the first type of treatment offered to breast cancer patients, followed by chemotherapy of radiotherapy or, in some cases, hormone or biological treatments.
Doctors will discuss the best treatment plan with each patient.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, with one in eight women diagnosed at some point in her lifetime.
Study lead author Professor Sabine Siesling, of the Netherlands Comprehensive Cancer Organisation, said: “A considerably superior survival, both specific to breast cancer and from any cause of death, was found for breast-conserving therapy in the early stage.
“We believe this information will have potential to greatly improve shared treatment decision-making for future breast cancer patients. However, we would like to emphasise that these results do not mean that mastectomy is a bad choice.
“For patients for whom radiotherapy is not suitable or feasible… for whom the risk of side effects of radiotherapy is high, or who have the prospect of a poor aesthetic outcome following breast conserving therapy, a mastectomy may still be the preferable treatment option...
“Our study showed that BCT is at least as good as mastectomy and that some patients might benefit more than others from BCT in the future.”
Rachel Rawson, Clinical Nurse Specialist at Breast Cancer Care, says: “This fascinating study has the potential to change which surgery may be offered to women over 50 with breast cancer. It suggests for some patients, taking out the cancer without removing the whole breast may offer a better chance of survival.
“However, that’s not the whole picture - radiotherapy given alongside the surgery can be gruelling. And for some women a mastectomy will always be the best option.
“We speak to thousands of women on our Helpline overwhelmed by decisions about surgery. An open conversation is crucial to help women make the right surgery choice for them, so they can confidently move forward after breast cancer.”
The study, which was the largest ever to be conducted, is to be presented at the European Cancer Congress 2017 in Amsterdam.