Sparing the Breast Doesn't Spoil Your Chances
He tells WebMD that keeping track of what happens to these patients a decade or more after their breast cancer is important because it provides more proof that lumpectomy is safe.
This study adds to a large body of medical data showing that lumpectomy is not associated with higher rates of death than mastectomy, according to Stephen B. Edge, MD, who reviewed the study for WebMD.
"It's important that we continue to see what the information from these trials shows," he tells WebMD. "More and more people are alive and well many years after breast cancer, and it's important for us to be able to tell them what the long-term outlook is."
Edge, who is chief of breast surgery at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y., says the European study agrees with a large American trial that included women with tumors as large as 4 cm who were offered lumpectomy.
"Basically, people have been willing to do lumpectomies up to 4-5 cm without much hesitation as long as the lesion is small enough in relation to the size of the breast," he says. For example, a woman with a large breast might be more of a candidate for lumpectomy to remove a larger tumor than a smaller-breasted woman, in whom removal of a large amount of tissue might leave a cosmetically unacceptable result. In addition to the actual tumor, doctors also must remove tissue around the tumor that may contain microscopic cancer cells, so the actual size of what needs to be removed can vary.
But overall, Edge says the findings are encouraging for women faced with a difficult decision. "This study further supports the statement that if you are appropriately treated with lumpectomy, you are not in any way jeopardizing your life by preserving your breast."
For more information from WebMD, visit our Disease and Conditions Breast Cancer page.