PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Even with widespread availability of breast conserving treatments for breast cancer, more and more women are opting for mastectomy or surgical removal of the breast.
“The vast majority of women with breast cancer do have a choice,” says Allegheny General Hospital breast surgeon, Dr. Michael Cowher. “We’ve known this for several years that the rate of mastectomy has been going up.”
A governmental agency that researches healthcare looked up billing codes to figure out the rates of breast cancer treatments from 2005 to 2013.
The rates of breast cancer have remained even, but the rate of mastectomy has gone up 36 percent, and double mastectomies have tripled.
“Women report fear of recurrence was a reason they would chose mastectomy. Or fear of developing a cancer in the other side as a reason they might choose a bilateral mastectomy,” says Dr. Cowher.
Instead of removing the entire breast, doctors can do a lumpectomy — in other words, just removing the cancerous lump — and then treating the area with radiation. A simpler procedure and a simpler recovery.
“Of course, they preserve their breast and the shape usually with minimal cosmetic deformity,” Dr. Cowher adds.
While survival with lumpectomy and mastectomy is the same, the rate of cancer recurrence is different.
“About one to two percent with a mastectomy, eight to 10 percent with a lumpectomy,” he says.
Dr. Cowher says one treatment does not fit all — a lot depends on tumor size, a person’s genetics, age and other medical conditions.
“Mastectomy might be right for you, lumpectomy might be right for you, chemo before or after might be right for you,” he says.