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For early-stage breast cancers, survival rates were found to be higher in women opting for lumpectomy rather than mastectomy.

A new study questions previous research that lumpectomy and mastectomy are similarly effective in terms of beating breast cancer.

Published online in the journal Cancer, the study revealed that, in early-stage breast cancer, “lumpectomy is just as…if not more effective than mastectomy,” said researcher Dr. Shelley Hwang, chief of breast surgery at Duke Cancer Institute in Durham, N.C., and part of the study team.

The study refutes the common belief that the more treatment you get, the more likely you are to be cancer-free. The percent of women with early breast cancers choosing a mastectomy has risen recently, after a dip in previous years. While women may have been told they could safely opt for lumpectomy, they may still have been afraid to try it. But according to the new research, if lumpectomy is viable, it may actually increase chances for survival.

Findings were also especially strong for women over 50 with hormone-sensitive cancers fueled by estrogen. According to Hwang, this group benefited the most and had the greatest likelihood for survival.

The study, funded by the U.S. National Cancer Institute, is extensive and well-documented. Researchers followed more than 112,000 women with early-stage 1 or 2 breast cancer over a 14-year period. Their ages ranged from 39-80; over half (55 percent) had lumpectomy and radiation, while the remaining 45 percent had complete mastectomy alone.

For the first three years after treatment, those who had a mastectomy had a higher risk of dying from heart disease and other ailments. Over the entire follow-up, those undergoing lumpectomy were more likely to survive the breast cancer.

While the study provides food for thought, “I don’t want women who chose mastectomy to think they did the wrong thing,” Hwang adds. Each patient is different and should examine all treatment options to determine what works best for her.

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