Surgeon Characteristics Affects Whether Women Get Radiation After Lumpectomy

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For most women with early breast cancer, lumpectomy (also called breast-conserving surgery) followed by radiation therapy has been shown to be as effective as mastectomy. Radiation therapy given after surgery is known as adjuvant radiation therapy.

A study wanted to know if the characteristics of surgeons (such as gender or type of medical degree) affected whether women got radiation therapy after breast cancer surgery. The study found that surgeons who:

  • were women
  • had an M.D. (as opposed to a D.O.) degree
  • were trained in the United States

were more likely to make adjuvant radiation therapy part of their patients' treatment plans.

About 75% of women in the study received radiation therapy after surgery. This means that 25% of the women DIDN'T get radiation therapy after surgery. Patients who were:

  • younger
  • white
  • married
  • lived in urban areas
  • didn't have many other illnesses

were more likely to receive radiation therapy after surgery. In some cases, radiation therapy after breast cancer surgery may not be needed. Still, it's likely that many of the women in this study who didn't get radiation therapy after lumpectomy would have benefited from the treatment.

If you've been diagnosed with early breast cancer and lumpectomy is part of your treatment plan, talk to your doctor about radiation therapy after surgery. Skipping radiation therapy after lumpectomy is the exception, not the rule. There may be very good reasons why radiation therapy isn't recommended for your specific situation. Still, your doctor should explain those reasons so you're satisfied. If you're uncomfortable with your doctor's recommendation, ask for a second opinion. There is only one of YOU and you deserve the best care.

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