Researchers have found that second lumpectomy in women whose cancer recurs in the same breast lowers their life expectancy.
Mastectomy is the generally accepted surgical treatment for a second cancer because whole breast radiation, which typically accompanies a lumpectomy, is not usually recommended twice in a lifetime.
The study involved 747 patients who previously received breast-conservation therapy and were diagnosed with cancer a second time in the same breast between 1988 and 2004.
The team found that women who had mastectomies had a 78 percent survival rate after five years, while those who had second lumpectomies had a 67 percent survival rate.
The 10-year survival rates were 62 percent for those who had mastectomies and 57 percent for those who had second lumpectomies.
In all, 24 percent of women with recurrent breast cancer in the same breast had second lumpectomies.
"We were surprised to find that so many women in our study - almost a quarter of them - had received another lumpectomy rather than a mastectomy," said Steven Chen, a UC Davis Cancer Centre surgical oncologist and lead author of the study.
"It's likely that patients are asking for lumpectomies when their cancer is diagnosed a second time, and their doctors are simply complying with that request. Whatever the reason, that decision can shorten life spans," he added.
According to Martinez, knowledge of breast cancer and its treatments are continuously advancing, and second lumpectomies could at some point become a viable option.
"As therapy for breast cancer becomes more targeted and researchers come closer to identifying those factors that make some breast cancers more aggressive than others, we may have the option of recommending second and even third lumpectomies in select cases in the future. Until then, mastectomy remains the best option for women experiencing a same-breast recurrence of their breast cancer," he said.
The study appears in the October issue of the American Journal of Surgery.