A study discovered that nearly 25% of women who had breast conservation surgery for breast cancer needed a second operation. The study consisted of 240,000 women who had breast conservation surgery for breast cancer from 2004 through 2010. Of the patients who had a second operation, about 62% had a completion of their lumpectomy and nearly 38% had the breast completely removed.
The need for a second surgery is traumatic for women from a psychological standpoint and can also result in poorer cosmetic outcomes.
Removing all of a tumor is the best way to reduce the odds of it returned. Unfortunately, until recently there hasn’t been a lot of agreement on how much breast tissue needs to be removed at the edges of a tumor during the breast-conserving procedure, known as a lumpectomy. Researchers suggest that the lack of consensus had led to the high rate of second surgeries.
In hopes of reducing the need for second operations, the Society of Surgical Oncology and the American Society for Radiation Oncology recently defined what it means to have all the cancer removed.
The new standard is, “no tumor on ink.” During a lumpectomy, the edges of the area removed are inked and as long as there are no cancer cells remaining in the inked area, then doctors can consider all the cancer removed.
Authors of the report hope that if these new guidelines are adopted, the number of second surgeries will be significantly reduced.
Researchers also believe that between 30 and 50% of the patients who have second surgeries following a lumpectomy do not need them based on these guidelines.
The study encourages all breast surgeons to rapidly adopt these guidelines to reduce unnecessary additional surgeries and the costs that are associated with them for both the patient and the health care system.