Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, no matter the woman’s race or ethnicity. In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that more than 230,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer, and more than 40,000 lost their fight. However, through a lumpectomy or mastectomy, many women are able to successfully fight the disease.
A mastectomy is a surgical procedure in which the breast is entirely removed from the body.
There are reasons to choose this procedure: to have greater peace of mind or to avoid radiation treatments. Some women are hesitant to undergo mastectomy since the entire breast is removed, but there are many prosthetic and reconstructive options after surgery to help restore shape and a patient’s body image.
Unfortunately, reconstruction may require several surgeries and a prolonged healing process that can take weeks or months. Mastectomy also typically causes numbness across the chest that is typically permanent.
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With lumpectomy, only the cancerous portion of the breast is removed. Another name for lumpectomy is a partial mastectomy.
Some women choose this procedure to preserve or conserve natural breast tissue. After having a lumpectomy performed, most patients receive up to seven weeks of radiation therapy five days a week to kill any remaining microscopic cancer cells. Side effects can include breast swelling, fatigue, and redness or blistering of the skin.
Despite a lumpectomy being the more popular procedure because of the conservation of the breast, women can have cosmetic concerns because of change in size or symmetry, scarring or firmness.
There are many factors women must consider when choosing between a lumpectomy or mastectomy. More women choose lumpectomy, but recently mastectomy and double mastectomy rates have been on the rise, even in patients with early stage disease. Some women may feel anxious that cancerous cells will return after a lumpectomy, and sometimes turn to a mastectomy to ease that concern.
However, recurrence rates are the same for both procedures so long as lumpectomy is followed by radiation. Removing additional healthy breast tissue does not decrease the risk of recurrence in other areas such as the bones, liver or lungs, but it does decrease the chances of developing a second breast cancer, which can be particularly important for certain patients with hereditary breast cancer.
Choosing between lumpectomy and mastectomy can be a difficult decision, and your physician can help you through this process.
If you are battling breast cancer, consult with your doctor to help make the best decision for yourself. If cancer is detected early, either a mastectomy or a lumpectomy is effective in removing the cancer with a very low chance of recurrence in the breast. That is why regular screening mammography is imperative to ensure the greatest number of surgical options.
Dr. Jessica Croley is with KentuckyOne Health Hematology and Oncology Associates.