A national database in Australia has found that younger women with breast cancer are opting for breast saving surgery instead of radiation, which may be hurting their chances of recovery.
According to Australasian National Breast Cancer Audit, women below 50 years of age are more likely to choose a breast-conserving lumpectomy over a full mastectomy than their older counterparts.
This may ultimately cut their chances of a cure, despite the fact that they are more vulnerable towards a recurrence than older women.
Dr James Kollias, clinical director of the database, which was established in 1998 to track the success of breast surgeons in Australia and New Zealand and analysed the results of 70,000 cases by 230 surgeons.
He indicated that the cancer data and the surgery data were drastically different with each other as far as the results were concerned.
"The type of tumours seen in older women tend to be less aggressive and theoretically require less radical surgical treatment, but despite this, older women tend to undergo mastectomy more frequently. On the other hand, breast cancers tend to be more aggressive in younger women who are more likely to undergo breast conserving surgery,'' News.com.au quoted Kollias, as saying.
He also asked the surgeons to avoid any kind of hesitations in suggesting mastectomy as a treatment option to younger breast cancer patients "if the cancers exhibit unfavourable characteristics''.
"Women who are recommended or chose mastectomy should also be advised that breast reconstruction can be offered to them. Sometimes, breast reconstruction can take place at the same time as mastectomy,'' said the specialist.
Professor Bruce Mann, head of the breast unit at the Royal Melbourne and Royal Women's hospitals, said that according to anecdotal evidence pre-menopausal women usually opt for conservation, may be because of fears linked with mastectomy.
However, he said that despite the findings being interesting, he was not convinced they necessarily showed younger women were making bad decisions.
"We'd need to follow this up to see whether the rate of local recurrence is unacceptably high among these women. What we've found here doesn't prove this,'' said Prof Mann.
The findings will be presented at an Australian surgery conference in Hong Kong.