NEW YORK (CBS) — A new study is raising questions about the medical treatment for older women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer.

Joan Safir, 76, was diagnosed with breast cancer last year.

“I was a high-risk patient, had been tested every six months and this time it came up in the MRI,” she said.

Some doctors do not recommend radiation treatment for older women after a lumpectomy.

Now a new study finds that some older women may want radiation after removing the cancerous lump because that may help prevent more surgery later.

“The majority of women that they looked at were benefited by radiation,” Dr. Freya Schnabel, of NYU Langone Medical Center, said. “It reduced the need for mastectomies.”

The study in the journal Cancer looked at 7,400 women age 70 to 79 who had a lumpectomy. Most of them received radiation afterward.

Researchers found within 10 years, about 6 percent of those women did not need additional surgery while half that number – about 3 percent – needed a mastectomy.

While certain guidelines suggest older women with early stage breast cancer may not need radiation after a lumpectomy, experts say these findings show some women will benefit from radiation treatment.

The study found one group of women that may not benefit – women over 75 with low grade breast cancer.

“For those patients the decision of whether or not to use radiation after a lumpectomy should be something that is discussed with their doctors,” Dr. Schnabel said.

More Health News
NYU Langone Medical Center

Watch & Listen LIVE