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Breast Conservation & Recurrence Risk: May 25, 2013

To save or not to save, a major decision women face with early breast cancer. Whether to have mastectomy or lumpectomy, a breast conserving surgery.

“If you have a breast cancer, you don’t necessarily have to lose your breast to treat the breast cancer. About 70% of the patients that I treat preserve their breasts,” says Dr. Lea Blackwell, surgical breast oncologist on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.

Also called partial mastectomy, lumpectomy removes only the tumor and surrounding tissue. It’s considered an effective treatment when used with radiation. But comes with a slightly higher risk of relapse.

“There is a slightly increased risk of recurrence if you leave the breast intact. But there’s no difference in survival. If they have a recurrence after their partial mastectomy, then they would have to have a mastectomy for optimum treatment,” says Dr. Blackwell.

Several factors may impact the return rate.

“If you’re a young individual, if you have lymphoid involvement you know, then you are at elevated risk or reoccurrence,” says Dr. Blackwell.

A local recurrence is most common in the first five years after diagnosis. While many of the risk factors are beyond control, researchers believe lifestyle choices are also in play.

“Any tobacco use is detrimental and one thing has been linked to risk of reoccurrence is alcohol intake. Alcohol intake in individuals that have had breast cancer is linked to a higher rate of reoccurrence,” says Dr. Blackwell.

Weight is also proving to be a heavy-hitter among risk factors.

“They’ve noticed in people that were obese, they had a higher rate of breast cancer reoccurrence then people that were a normal weight. So there’s been a push to try to maintain a healthy lifestyle after their breast cancer because that should reduce their risk of reoccurrence,” says Dr. Black.

When it comes to keeping breast cancer at bay, patients have to consider the choice of treatment, and the choice of habit.