Repeat Breast Cancer Surgeries May Be Unnecessary

One in four women who undergo breast-conserving surgery to remove cancer will be called back for more surgery, a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds.

About 60 to 75 percent of breast cancer patients undergo a partial mastectomy, which aims at conserving as much breast tissue as possible while still removing the tumor.

After surgery, doctors examine the removed tissue and look for clues that cancer may be left behind. If they suspect more cancerous cells are left behind, the patient may require more surgery. Because each surgery takes an emotional and financial toll on patients researchers argue that doctors and breast surgeons need to find a consensus on which patients require additional surgery and which do not.

This is some uncertainty as to how much evidence physicians need to justify another surgery – and surgeons can only approximate during the procedure. Surgeons agree that patients need additional surgery if the removed tissue has cancer cells up to the edges, however; some surgeons also performed revision surgery on patients who had borders of “cancer-free tissue” following the post-surgery analysis. Speculation seems to point towards the size of the healthy cell border on removed tissue; some surgeons prefer to remove more tissue to be safe.

Moreover, the chance that a woman will have additional surgery varies greatly depending on where she gets it done and the surgeon that performs it, the researchers said. This suggests that some of these surgeries are unnecessary.

At the end of the day there is no evidence that repeat surgeries prevent cancer recurrence, which suggests that a number of women may be having unnecessary surgeries.

If you are facing a cancer surgery you may want to discuss the possibility of revision breast cancer surgeries with your cancer specialist and surgeon. He or she can tell you more about their approach to tissue margins, their history of revision surgeries, and whether they believe bigger margins do in fact provide a clinical benefit.

+ Learn about breast cancer care at Bon Secours.

Source: “Many repeat breast cancer surgeries could be unnecessary”

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