July 9, 2008 -- A new study shows that women who get breast conserving
surgery, or lumpectomy, to treat breast cancer are more likely to have depression symptoms and worse
quality of life if there is pronounced breast asymmetry after surgery.
Breast cancer patients are the largest group of cancer
survivors in the U.S., according to a background report that was published
alongside the study.
The study was led by Jennifer Waljee, MD, and colleagues at the University
of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Researchers surveyed 714 women who had breast-conserving surgery at the
University of Michigan Medical Center from 2002 to 2006.
They were asked to rate how they were doing in these areas after
Quality of life
Whether they had symptoms of depression
Fear of recurrence
Whether they felt stigmatized
Whether they perceived a change in their health status
Here are the results:
Nearly a third of women who had breast-conserving surgery reported having
"pronounced" asymmetry of their breasts after surgery.
Women with pronounced asymmetry in their breasts were 4.5 times more likely
to feel stigmatized because of their cancer treatment. They were also less
likely to report unchanged health status or that their health had improved
after the treatment.
Women who had minimal breast asymmetry reported higher quality-of-life
scores than women with pronounced breast asymmetry after surgery.
Women with pronounced breast asymmetry were more likely to have symptoms of
depression; 34% of women with pronounced asymmetry had symptoms of depression,
compared with 16% and 18% of those with minimal and moderate breast asymmetry,
Women with pronounced breast asymmetry were twice as likely to fear that
cancer would recur when compared with those with minimal asymmetry.
"We found that one of the most important factors of post-operative
quality of life and satisfaction was post-operative asymmetry or the aesthetic
outcome that women experienced after their surgery," Waljee says in a news
Waljee says that "It's important for women to think about all of those
issues at the time that they're making their surgical decision and realize that
although breast conserving surgery may or may not be less disfiguring than
mastectomy, they're likely to experience some asymmetry afterwards that may
impact their quality of life."
She hopes the findings can help lead to improved care for breast cancer
patients. "It's important for breast surgeons to have an open and honest
dialog with their patients so that they understand patients' expectations
before surgery and can better address post-operative recovery needs."
The American Cancer Society reports that 182,460 women in the U.S. will be
diagnosed with invasive breast cancer this year and 40,480 will die from the
The results appear in the July 10 edition of the Journal of Clinical