Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2008


Improved screening with mammograms and MRIs means that more women are diagnosed with breast cancer before their tumors spread, which in turn means that surgery to remove the malignant cells can be more effective. In fact, some doctors think surgery may be too effective. Thanks to better early-detection methods, many cancer centers in the U.S. report that more women are choosing mastectomy, or full breast removal, over lumpectomy — as a prophylactic measure to prevent recurrence and, in some cases, to avoid the grueling regimen of radiation that is recommended to treat remaining breast tissue.

While mastectomy and lumpectomy continue to be the most common surgeries to treat breast cancer, breast-sparing surgical techniques have continued to evolve. In Japan, doctors have developed an endoscopic, or key-hole, procedure for mastectomy, which allows them to remove breast tissue while sparing the skin of the breast for immediate reconstruction. That procedure has been most successful in patients with early-stage breast cancer, but it could make decisions about treatment and reconstruction easier for many patients.