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Breast Cancer Patients Who Refuse Breast Removal, Could Need Second Surgery

Update Date: Jul 15, 2012 10:54 AM EDT

One in five of breast cancer patients who refuse to undergo mastectomy - and instead opt for breast conserving surgery (which is less drastic) need more surgeries in future to remove tumours, a latest study reveals.

Although breast conservation surgery does not take away entire breast, and is less drastic in nature, it could certainly add up to more "emotional distress" when women have to undergo another surgery in an already upsetting time, said researchers. The surgery usually is followed by radiotherapy to ensure any remaining tumours are banished.

In mastectomy, the whole of the breast is taken out, hence ensuring complete tumor removal. However, in breast conservation surgery, only the small affected section of the breast is removed, raising chances of a woman needing another operation. The re-operation could involve another breast conserving operation or a mastectomy.

Around 45,000 women in England are diagnosed with breast cancer every year and according to 2008 statistics, 58 per cent of them chose to go for a breast conserving surgery and not mastectomy.

For the study, researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine looked at 55,297 women who had undergone breast conserving surgery between the year 2005 and 2008.

It was found that 11,032 women needed another surgery since the first one was unable to remove the tumors completely. Of these, 40 percent had to go for mastectomy.

According to researchers, the possible explanation for the phenomenon is that the surgeons are unable to remove the entire affected tissue, resulting in further multiplication of the cells. This could be blamed on the fact that there are no proper guidelines telling the surgeons as to how much of the tissues need to be removed as they would not exactly understand how widespread the tumours are, reports Mail Online.

Their study, published in the British Medical Journal, urges them to 'review their technique' to avoid women unnecessary distress.

"Reoperation also puts women through the emotional distress of being told that their cancer has not been completely excised and leads to delays in their recovery. This extended recovery period can hinder the ability of women to resume work and other activities, so it has an adverse socio-economic effect," the study says according to

There are still speculations about the chances of cancer returning if a woman does not undergo to mastectomy.

"Surgery is the first treatment for most people with breast cancer and some people will be offered the choice between a mastectomy and breast conserving surgery. It's really important that women are aware of all the potential benefits and drawbacks when they make this decision so their choice is informed. While the majority of people who choose breast conserving surgery won't need another operation, it's important everyone knows beforehand that it is a possibility," Dr Emma Pennery, Clinical Director at Breast Cancer Care was quoted as saying by Mail Online.

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