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A new study from Duke University shows that women with early stages of breast cancer who undergo a lumpectomy coupled with radiation treatment have a higher survival rate than those who have mastectomies.

January 29, 2013

Durham, N.C. — A new study from Duke University shows that women with early stages of breast cancer who undergo a lumpectomy coupled with radiation treatment have a higher survival rate than those who have mastectomies.

Previous research showed the two operations produced the same results. This is the first study to say lumpectomies with radiation may be a better option.

"Women who are on the fence about it, women as they make their own decision, this will support them in the idea that this is a very good treatment option for them," said Freya Schnabel, director of breast surgery at New York University's Langone Medical Center.

After Toni Spring, 50, was diagnosed with breast cancer last summer, she decided to have a lumpectomy – a smaller operation than a mastectomy, which removes the entire breast.

"(I am) very happy with the choice," she said. "I didn't have to stay in the hospital for longer than the surgery and a couple hours after recover."

Over the last decade, many breast cancer patients, especially younger women, have opted to have their entire breasts removed. Schnabel said this study could reverse that trend.

"I think sometimes patients think that because mastectomy is a bigger operation, that it means it's a better treatment," she said.

Experts say factors such as tumor size and family history should be considered when choosing a treatment. Spring went to three doctors – two advised she have one or more breasts removed.

Spring said she was relieved to find out a lumpectomy could be just as effective.

"It was very empowering that I had this choice that I didn't really think I had," she said.

If her cancer comes back, she can have a mastectomy if she needs one.

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