Lumpectomy vs. Mastectomy

Carolyn Vachani, MSN, RN, AOCN
Last Modified: December 4, 2005

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My mother who is 61 years old has a T1 (bordering on T2) breast cancer diagnosis which qualifies to be treated with a lumpectomy and radiation. What are the reasons for selecting a lumpectomy over a mastectomy?

Carolyn Vachani, MSN, RN, AOCN OncoLink's Nurse Educator responds:

Researchers began looking at this question in the 1920's, making the decision of lumpectomy plus radiation versus mastectomy one of the most studied in medicine. Thousands of women participated in trials comparing these two therapies, for stage I and II breast cancer, and with follow-up as far as 20 years out, survival rates are equivalent. In 1990, The National Cancer Institute held a consensus conference, declaring lumpectomy + radiation the preferable treatment because of the psychological and body image issues with mastectomy. Despite all the available data, a study by the American College of Surgeons found that less than 50% of eligible women were treated with breast conserving surgery in 1995. The good news is this number was double the number of women treated with breast conserving surgery in 1985.

Although I would lean towards breast conserving surgery, this is a personal decision. Your mother should choose the treatment that makes her feel most comfortable, and know that she has the same excellent chance of cure no matter what her decision.

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