Why some patients with breast tumors could possibly avoid a mastectomy

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By Sonya Goins

A breast cancer diagnosis is a life-changing event. Now, people with multiple tumors may have another option when it comes to fighting the disease. Judy Boughey, M.D., a surgical oncologist with the Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center, led a study that found some patients can avoid a mastectomy when it comes to surgery.

Watch this "Mayo Clinic Minute" video to hear Dr. Boughey discuss the study:

According to a study led by the Alliance in Clinical Trials in Oncology and Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center, women with multiple tumors could receive breast-conserving therapy: a lumpectomy followed by whole-breast radiation therapy, rather than a mastectomy.

Historically, patients with two or more tumors in one breast had to undergo a mastectomy. However, that protocol could soon be a thing of the past thanks to advances in breast cancer management.

"Recent studies have shown that, for patients that do have two sites or three sites of disease within the breast, that breast conservation may be acceptable and may have acceptable risks of local recurrence," says Dr. Boughey.

People can now discuss the less invasive surgical procedure with their health care team.

"It's a shorter procedure. It's a quicker recovery, and you can get on to your next course of therapy, in terms of systemic therapy and/or radiation quicker," Dr. Boughey says.

She also says the biggest advantage is that patients get to keep their breast.

The study is published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Types of breast cancer surgery

For people with an aggressive form of breast cancer, surgery may be the best option. There are several types of procedures that your surgical oncologist will discuss with you.

  • Surgery to remove the entire breast (mastectomy).
  • Surgery to remove a portion of the breast tissue (lumpectomy).
  • Surgery to remove nearby lymph nodes.
  • Surgery to reconstruct a breast after mastectomy.

Surgery will depend on the stage, size, and type of breast cancer.

Learn more

Learn more about breast cancer and find a breast cancer clinical trial at Mayo Clinic.

Join the Breast Cancer Support Group on Mayo Clinic Connect.

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A version of this story was originally published on the Mayo Clinic News Network.