Lumpectomy better for cancer survival than double mastectomy

A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) says that a lumpectomy is more helpful with breast cancer survival rates than a double mastectomy. According to the JAMA study, lumpectomy patients had a higher possibility of reaching a 10-year survival rate than patients who opt for a double mastectomy.

The study examined 189,734 California breast cancer patients (all women) who were diagnosed with breast cancer between the years of 1998 and 2011. The results of the study showed that women who had lumpectomies (the removal of the lump itself) along with chemotherapy and radiation treatments had an 83.2% chance of survival – as opposed to an 81.2% survival rate for those who opted for a double mastectomy.

The same study also showed that women who had a single mastectomy (the removal of one breast) fared worse in the long run than either the double mastectomy or lumpectomy patients. The reason for smaller survival with a single mastectomy is that the cancer, found in one breast, could then enter into the other if it is not removed. Most of the individuals who opted for a single mastectomy, according to the participants of the study, were those who were born in lower-income households. Wealthy breast cancer patients were more likely to have a double mastectomy, suggesting that wealth or lack thereof may influence some medical decisions.

In 2011, the last-year threshold of California participants in the study, 33 out of 40 women were having mastectomies to remove their cancer when many of these same individuals had very low beginning or stage 1 cancers. In other words, double mastectomies often prove to be the last resort for someone who is fighting cancer, rather than the first result. And yet, so many women were having their breasts removed when it is possible that they could have spared them – leading to increased medical costs and recovery that could have been avoided altogether. And, to add to this, a double mastectomy provides little guarantee in the way of extended life expectancy: a person could have their breasts removed today, only to see the cancer enter into the lungs or throat within a few years.

Double mastectomy refers to the removal of both breasts (hence “double”) in order to prevent breast cancer altogether. Some individuals choose to undergo a double mastectomy when they discover a significant risk for breast cancer in their families, as did actress (and now wife of Brad Pitt) Angelina Jolie. A double mastectomy brings more health complications than a lumpectomy or chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and patients have longer recovery rates, according to the study.