After a long period of study, it shows little difference in outcome between radical and more conservative breast surgery. The radical mastectomy - total removal of the breast and the nodes under the armpit - is far less often done nowadays as a treatment for breast cancer. Surgeons are more likely to opt for a simple mastectomy or even a lumpectomy, which just removes the lump and conserves the breast.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh now produce new evidence that shows radical mastectomy is rarely necessary. They studied 1005 women who had no sign of cancer in the armpit lymph nodes. Some had radical mastectomy, some had simple mastectomy with radiation or - if the nodes became positive - removal of the nodes. They also studied 502 women with lymph node involvement - who received similar treatment.
There were no significant differences in survival among the three groups of women who started off with their lymph nodes free of cancer. Nor were there differences in the groups who had positive nodes.