Mastectomy has biggest impact on breast cancer survivors' quality of life: study
Breast cancer survivors who chose breast reconstruction or breast-conserving surgery as their treatment option have a higher quality of life than women who underwent a mastectomy with no reconstruction afterwards, researchers from the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam found in the first ever study into the long-term impact of various breast cancer treatments, AD reports.
According to researcher and plastic surgeon Marc Mureau, it is important to know the long-term effects of different treatments as more and more breast cancer patients survive the disease. The researchers surveyed nearly 2 thousand women who were treated for breast cancer between 2008 and 2018. The participants had to fill in questionnaires about the quality of their lives.
"We compared four treatments and can now really say for a large group of women how they experience them. This helps us to better advise patients," Mureau said to AD. They found that amputation has the greatest impact on the quality of the patient's life. "These women are often less comfortable and have less pleasure in sex," the doctor said. Patients who had breast-conserving surgery, had a prosthesis placed, or had reconstruction done with their own tissue, clearly have a higher quality of life than women who had a mastectomy alone.
Women whose breasts were reconstructed with their own tissue are most satisfied with their breasts years later. But women who had breast-conserving surgery value their bodies most, the researchers noted. "Maybe that's because they kept most of their own breasts and their own nipples. That is important for the perception of their body," Mureau said.
Complications after treatment can seriously damage the quality of the patient's life. The researchers found that women who had breast-conserving treatment most often have symptoms and complaints related to their breasts afterwards. This may be a side effect of the radiation that is always part of this type of treatment, the researchers said. Women who had breast reconstruction with their own tissue, evaluated their lives more negatively for the longest.
"None of the treatments are without risk," Mureau said. "But we live in a time when people make their own choices. We try to guide them as well as possible. This study helps to know better what the impact of a specific treatment is long-term, so that patients can make their own decisions."