MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s a tough decision that comes after a tough diagnosis.
Women diagnosed with breast cancer must decide whether to have a lumpectomy, or a mastectomy.
A new study from Duke University says patients with early-stage breast cancer have better survival rates with lumpectomies and radiation, than they do with mastectomies.
“The idea of my own death really didn’t scare me, but then you wake up in the morning and you look at these little faces and you know that their sun rises and sets on you,” said Melissa Gonzalez.
The odds were against Gonzales. Her mother was diagnosed at 38, and she lost her grandmother and her great-grandmother to breast cancer.
“By choosing to have the prophylactic mastectomy, I reduced the risk of me getting cancer by over 90 percent,” she said.
Researchers looked at more than 100,000 breast cancer patients, and results showed women were 14 percent less likely to die from breast cancer after lumpectomy and radiation than after mastectomy.
Previously, it was thought the two operations produced the same results.
“Initially my reaction was that I should be having a reaction,” Gonzalez said. “Should I be feeling the regret of ‘Oh my gosh, what have I done when I could’ve saved my breasts?'”
Instead, Gonzales said she’s comforted knowing that she did the only option available for prevention: a double mastectomy.
“The alternate would have been risking my life later down the road,” she said.
Gonzales does say undergoing a mastectomy is invasive and hard to digest.
“And then they were gone,” she said. “And then you start to realize more so what they were when they were there … and re-defining yourself, and your sensuality, and your femininity.”
She’s glad, thanks to new research, that other women may now have the option to avoid such extremes.
Some women with early breast cancer may choose to get a mastectomy for reasons such as strong family history, or not wanting to have to go through frequent check-ups.
Doctors in this study say these women should understand the mastectomy isn’t necessarily giving them a better chance for a cure.