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Smaller breast and larger tumor size are associated with an increased likelihood of choosing mastectomy. This current study confirmed this finding qualitatively and pointed to new ways of addressing the issue. Women who opted for BCT in this study considered mastectomy too radical. They also cited recovery time from surgery, perceived tumor size, and confidence in the BCT approach.

“The primary goal of this article is to improve understanding of why women with early stage breast cancer choose mastectomy vs breast conserving therapy. With improved understanding, health care providers may be able to deepen their relationships with their patients and provide improved counselling.” Dr Gu told Oncology Nurse Advisor

Fear and worry about cancer recurrence are well-known reasons for why women opt for mastectomy. Dr Gu said this was confirmed, and the current investigation showed that these feelings are related to observed failed BCT, among other things. The most common subtheme was whether a woman had a close family member or friend with ESBC who had a negative BCT or positive mastectomy experience.

Dr Gu said oncology nurses through their clinical experiences are uniquely qualified to help guide women during this journey and to offer them insight into some of the pitfalls when weighing the scientific data.  Some women may have unwarranted fears that are not being adequately addressed.

“Oncology nurses play a vital role in education and counselling in the treatment of breast cancer. The experience they have in interacting with patients and the overall treatment process is invaluable in providing advice around treatment decisions or dispelling potential misconceptions and fears,” explained Dr Gu.

This investigation involved open-ended questions, and a central theme that emerged was mastectomy was viewed as too radical. The theme of feminine identity was a key reason many women opted for BCT. The women raised issues about body image and seeing themselves as a whole female.