A new study finds women with early stage breast cancer who undergo breast conserving surgery do just as well and perhaps better in terms of survival than those who have their entire breast removed.
Researchers at Duke University Medical Center studied more than 100,000 women diagnosed with stage one or stage two breast cancer.
The women were followed for nine years.
Researchers found those treated with a lumpectomy and radiation were 19 percent less likely to die than those who had a mastectomy, regardless of their age or cancer type.
In a lumpectomy, the tumor and part of the surrounding tissue are removed. In a mastectomy, the entire breast is removed.
According to Dr. Isabelle Bedrosian with MD Anderson Cancer Center, the study gives more options to those patients who have a choice.
"The key finding here is that the women who have lumpectomy radiation have excellent outcomes and are in no way compromised compared to women who have a mastectomy," she said.
Irena Chang was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer in 2011. She opted for a mastectomy.
"I chose mastectomy over lumpectomy because it would reduce my chances of re-occurrence, it provided a better cosmetic outcome and it helped me to avoid unnecessary radiation that is associated with a lumpectomy," Chang said.
Even with the new study findings, Chang said she wouldn't choose for a different treatment.
"I feel like it was the best decision for me," she said.
Bedrosian agreed that a lumpectomy isn't for everyone.
"Not every women is a good candidate for this, but for those who do have the choice, they are trying to decided between the two options. I think they should be reassured choosing one option over the other is not going to negatively influence their outcome," she said.
Experts caution the apparent survival benefit might have been linked to differences in the two patient groups, including access to health care.