Many women with early-stage breast cancer have full-time jobs when they’re diagnosed, and they are more likely to miss at least a month of work when they receive aggressive treatment that includes surgery, a U.S. study suggests.
The majority of women in the study had surgery - either a lumpectomy that removes malignant tissue while sparing the rest of the breast or a mastectomy that removes the entire breast. Afterwards, many of them also got chemotherapy or radiation to destroy any remaining abnormal cells and reduce the risk of cancer coming back.
Women who received the most aggressive treatment - a double mastectomy followed by breast reconstruction surgery - were almost eight times more likely to miss a month or more of work than women who got a lumpectomy, the study found. With a double mastectomy and reconstruction, women were also three times more likely to stop working altogether.
“We know that many of the women who are receiving (double) mastectomy do not have advanced tumors that require mastectomy even on the affected side,” said lead study author and IHPI member Dr. Reshma Jagsi.
All of the women had early breast cancer, meaning the tumors had not spread beyond the breast and nearby lymph nodes. Survival odds are generally much better for women diagnosed with these early-stage tumors than for patients with tumors that have metastasized, or spread to other organs in the body.
“Many of the women who are considering more aggressive surgery tell me that they are considering this because they want to make sure they will be there for those who depend on them, both at home and at work,” Jagsi said by email. “For most women with early-stage breast cancer, lumpectomy with radiation therapy is an option, will yield equivalent overall survival to mastectomy, and will actually be less likely to disrupt their ability to be there for others.”