Radical mastectomy where the breast and surrounding muscles are removed is no better at preserving life than less aggressive treatments.

New research from the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, confirms that lumpectomy, where the breast is conserved, and radiation were just as effective after 10 years in controlling early stage (stage I and II) cancers.

Their findings, based on 247 patients, provide a further nail in the coffin of a surgical procedure developed 100 years ago by William Halsted. The shift away from this operation began 25 years ago, but it is now increasingly being seen as unnecessarily brutal.

The National Cancer Institute research found that 75 per cent of patients given mastectomy had survived, against 77 per cent of those given lumpectomy and radiation.

Their findings are welcome because another major study, published last year by the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast Project, came to the same conclusion, but was discredited because of fraudulent data (NEJM, April 6, 1995).

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Written by What Doctors Don't Tell You

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