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Some Women Choosing More Invasive Breast Cancer Surgery When They Don't Need To

BOSTON (CBS) - A national study finds that even when women diagnosed with breast cancer are given the option to save their breast, many choose not to.

The new study from Brigham and Women's Hospital had two important findings.

They found that with newer chemotherapy agents, a significant percentage of women with what is considered aggressive breast cancer, can safely opt to have a lumpectomy with radiation with outcomes just as good as if they choose to have mastectomy.

But the study also found that when women were given the option of the less invasive surgery, with the same survival success rates, more than half still chose to have their entire breast removed. It's not clear why, but fear and some recent high profile cases may play a role.

Dr. Mehra Golshan is the Director of Breast Surgical Services at the Dana Farber-Brigham and Women's Cancer Center and an author of the study.

He says that over the past decade in the U.S., more and more women are choosing mastectomy as well as prophylactic mastectomy.

"Some surgeons and oncologists are calling this the Angelina Jolie effect," says Dr. Golshan.

"Meaning that they see what's happening in the media and patients who may not need to have one or both breasts removed will base their care on someone else's treatment choices, and that's not necessarily the right thing to do."

Mastectomy is no easy surgery. It's a big operation and can cause permanent numbness where the breast is removed.

A similar study was done in Europe and found that about three quarters of the women chose lumpectomy, as opposed to less than half of the patients in this Brigham and Women's study.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Diane Stern with Dr. Golshan

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