Posted on Feb 18, 2012
A new study found that there is uncertainty in the medical community about the most common breast cancer operation that has been used for the past three decades. The study found that there are no clear guidelines regarding when women who have had lumpectomies to treat breast cancer need a second operation.

Further operations after lumpectomies are typically done when pathology reports indicate that some cancer cells may be left in the body after the lumpectomy. However, problems in reading the pathology reports may be leading some women to have unnecessary operations and other women not to have the operations they need.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that among the population studied almost 50% of women who had second operations did not have pathology reports that indicated stray cancer cells in the body. Additionally, 14% of women whose pathology reports did indicate that cancer was left in the body did not have the potentially lifesaving second operations.

The rates of second surgeries varied widely among physicians. Some surgeons never did second surgeries, while others did them in seventy percent of cases.

One of the study’s authors theorized that second surgeries are more common in breast cancer surgeries than other types of cancer surgeries because surgeons try to save as much tissue as possible for cosmetic reasons. Additionally, there is concern over a lack of consensus about what the healthy tissue margins around the tumor should be to consider the first lumpectomy complete.

 Our Atlanta breast cancer lawyers hope that this study provides surgeons with the incentive necessary to make sure that all women who need second surgeries are getting them and that those who don’t are spared the pain and risk of unnecessary treatment.

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