Mastectomy not the only treatment option for breast cancer

I read with interest the article about the new surgical procedure for breast cancer patients (New mastectomy technique at KKH leaves less scarring; June 14).

While it is laudable that our surgeons have developed novel surgical techniques that seek to improve the patient's overall psychological well-being, I could not help but notice that many reports published by The Straits Times over the past three years regarding surgery for breast cancer have focused on mastectomy, with scant attention being paid to breast conservation therapy as a viable treatment option.

This is significant because breast conservation therapy has been shown since 2002 to produce equivalent long-term survival and outcomes when compared with mastectomy.

It was, in fact, cited to be the treatment of choice for small breast cancers by the late renowned surgeon Umberto Veronesi.

Even more importantly, a series of studies published over the past four years have shown better outcomes (overall survival and cancer-specific survival) for patients who underwent breast conservation therapy with irradiation when compared with patients who underwent mastectomy.

In this day and age, under the new legal standard set by the modified Montgomery test in our local courts, we are told that patients need to be informed of material risks and complications, as well as alternatives available to them.

For the purpose of helping to improve the overall well-being of breast cancer patients, the public should be informed of breast conservation treatment with irradiation as an option that is equal to, if not better than, mastectomy.

Sitoh Yih Yiow (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 19, 2018, with the headline 'Mastectomy not the only treatment option for breast cancer'. Print Edition | Subscribe