Two long-term studies of breast cancer patients conclude that removing only the cancerous tumor in a diseased breast gives women an equal chance of survival as undergoing a mastectomy, according to the New York Times. The studies were published in the New England Journal of Medicine last week and involved more than 2,500 women with breast cancer over the course of 20 years. The larger of the two studies, at the University of Pittsburgh, found that the likelihood that the disease would spread after treatment or that the patient would die was the same for women given mastectomies, lumpectomies, or lumpectomies followed by radiation treatment, according to the Times. While adding the radiation treatment did not improve survival rates, it did decrease the chance of another cancer arising in the previously infected breast, thus reducing the chances that a patient would have to undergo a mastectomy in the future.
Until the 1970s, the most common way of dealing with breast cancer was with “radical mastectomies,” which involved removing the entire breast up into the armpit as well as a good part of the torso, according to WebMD Medical News. Currently, the most common form of mastectomy, the “modified radical mastectomy,” removes the entire breast as well as the lymph nodes under the arm, the lining over the chest muscles, and sometimes part of the chest wall muscles. Dr. Monica Morrow, a professor of surgery at Northwestern University, conducted a national survey of women with early-stage breast cancer and found that only 42.6 percent had surgeries that conserved the breastÑshe hopes that the results of these studies encourages more women to choose lumpectomies, according to the Times.