Nightly News   |  January 28, 2013

Mastectomy may have less benefit than lumpectomy

According to a new study among early stage breast cancer survivors, those who receive a lumpectomy plus radiation and those who have a mastectomy both have similar rates of survival. The latest research indicates the more invasive surgery isn’t necessarily the better option.  NBC’s Dr. Nancy Snyderman reports.

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>>> as we mentioned, tonight's health news may be of help to women faced with a big decision about breast cancer treatment . a new study from duke university is suggesting that lumpectomy plus radiation may be an even better option than mastectomy for early-stage breast cancer . our report on this tonight from our chief medical editor, dr. nancy snyderman .

>> reporter: 40-year-old arita chang is used to being in charge of her health. she exercises regularly and has a healthy diet . so when she got stage 1 breast cancer a few years ago, she made the choice a lot of younger women are making these days.

>> i chose a mastectomy, because it reduced the chances of recurrence. it provided better cosmetic outcome. i also didn't want to doubt that i hadn't done enough.

>> reporter: for years, research showed that for early-stage breast cancer , survival is about equal with either mastectomy or lumpectomy plus radiation. but a new study indicates those who choose the less-invasive lumpectomy with radiation may have an advantage.

>> doing more surgery doesn't necessarily improve your chances of doing well from breast cancer .

>> reporter: researchers analyzed 112,000 women diagnosed with early stage breast cancer between 1990 and 2004 . 55% had lumpectomy plus radiation. 45% had mastectomy without radiation. women who had lumpectomy plus radiation had higher survival rates. particularly women over the age of 50 with hormone-sensitive tumors. doctors caution, they aren't clear exactly what underlying factors may have influenced these results.

>> reporter: 72-year-old barbara croft decided to have a lumpectomy and radiation last year. she didn't mind the time or travel required to get radiation. her big worry, spending more hours in the operating room.

>> my concerns about getting a mastectomy were the question of a much larger surgery, actually. as well as some kind of reconstruction.

>> reporter: location and lifestyle are increasingly influencing women's choice of treatment. and doctors say for early stage patients, those are the considerations that matter most.

>> the question for every woman becomes not just the general options, but which of the two options might be a best fit for her personally.

>> well, every woman wants to individualize treatment. in this case, it may be that less surgery has better outcomes, brian.

>> nancy, while we have you, a friend and colleague of all of ours today, barbara walters , 83 years old, has been in the hospital for nine days, suffered a fall before the inauguration, spiked a fever. and today we learned she has chickenp chickenpox. how common is that?

>> it's not common, but a reminder that anybody who hasn't had chickenpox, nor been immunized, if you're 13 and over, if you're not sure you had chickenpox, get your chickenpox vaccine . not the shingles vaccine, the plain vaccine from childhood. a reminder when a childhood disease hits an adult, it can be very threatening, brian. very severe. and it's something that doctors caution people about all the time. if you're not sure, get your vaccine, two vaccines spread out by one month.

>> of course, we wish our friend barbara well.

>> yes, we do.

>> my money is on her, thanks.

>> my money is on her too.

>> nancy, thank you, as always.

>>> when we come back, the queen's momentous decision to abdicate the throne, but perhaps not the queen you're thinking. we're all having such a great year in the gulf, of.