London: Women with breast cancer have a better chance of surviving breast cancer if they don`t have a mastectomy, a major study has found.
Those aged over 50 who have only the lump removed, followed by radiotherapy, are almost a fifth more likely to survive the illness than patients who lose the whole breast.
Many breast cancer patients choose to have a mastectomy thinking it will remove the tumours as quickly as possible and give them the best chance of survival.
But a ten-year research project by researchers from Duke University in North Carolina has found that a less radical form of treatment - breast conservation surgery - is more effective.
It involves taking away the affected lump and then administering high doses of radiotherapy over a course of five or six weeks to ensure any remaining cancerous cells are killed.
The researchers looked at the records of 112,154 women diagnosed with breast cancer between 1994 and 2004.
Around 55 percent had breast conservation surgery and 44 percent had a mastectomy.
The study, published in the journal Cancer, revealed that women who had breast conservation surgery were 13 percent more likely to survive the illness. But the results were even more promising in women over 50 whose survival odds were 19 percent higher than those who had mastectomies.
It also found that women of all ages who had breast conservation surgery were a fifth less likely to die from other causes such as heart disease.
The findings support the notion that less invasive treatment can provide superior survival to mastectomy in stage one or stage two breast cancer, said lead researcher Dr E Shelley Hwang, of the Duke Cancer Institute in North Carolina.