Study reveals more than half of UK mastectomies were unnecessary
HALF of women having mastectomies for early signs of cancer endure needless surgery, a major study suggests.
Experts said the figures from a national audit of care in Britain were a "terrible" indictment – with too many patients enduring extra procedures or unnecessary mastectomies because the extent of disease was not detected accurately.
The study presented to the European Breast Cancer Conference in Glasgow examined the treatment of women with Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS) – an early sign of cancer.
Of more than 8,000 patients, about 2,500 ended up having a breast removal procedure.
However, the study found that of 49pc of such cases, the mastectomy was either unnecessary or was being carried out because a previous operation had failed.
Researchers said the failure to accurately chart the extent of disease meant doctors were carrying out too many mastectomies when women did not need them – while carrying out more minor procedures on those who needed full breast removal. The study found that in almost one-third of cases, the women undergoing mastectomies had already undergone a lumpectomy, which is a more minor procedure which should only be used for small lumps.
In most of those cases, further surgery was required because the extent of disease had been underestimated, researchers said.
Conversely, 21 per cent of the mastectomies were carried out on women whose lumps were small enough that such major surgery could have been avoided, the study found.
Researchers said the figures provided a "stark" warning that thousands of women were receiving the wrong treatment, and highlighted enormous variations between hospitals. (© Daily Telegraph, London)