Factors influencing options in primary breast cancer treatment

W. H. Wolberg, M. A. Tanner, E. P. Romsaas, D. L. Trump, J. F. Malec

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Primary breast cancer treatment is determined by tumor factors and by patient preference. Breast cancer treatments that preserve the cosmetic appearance of the breast are appealing and effective for appropriately selected patients; long-term survival following tumor excision and breast irradiation appears to be comparable to that for mastectomy. Since April 1981, when a protocol was developed and treatment options were offered, factors influencing treatment selection have been analyzed in 206 consecutive primary breast cancer patients. Mastectomy was dictated by tumor-related factors in 96 patients (47%); 110 patients (53%) had the option of mastectomy or conservation - tumor excision plus radiotherapy to the breast. Among these 110 eligible patients, 54 chose conservation (49%) and 56 chose mastectomy (51%). Intraoperative findings per ten patients electing conservation necessitated mastectomy, so conservation was accomplished for 44 (21%) of those treated for breast cancer. Beginning in July 1982, breast cancer patients took a battery of psychosexual assessments before any operation (Profile of Mood States [POMS], Health Locus of Control Scale [HLCS] Locke-Wallace Marital Adjustment Test [MAT], Psychosocial Adjustment to Illness Scale [PAIS], Derogatis Sexual Function Inventory [DSFI], Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory [MCMI], and a Breast Cancer Information Test [BCIT]). Comparisons of psychologic and demographic variables were made between patients who chose mastectomy and those who chose conservation. No demographic variable was statistically significantly related to choice, although older women tended to select mastectomy more than younger women. Compared with those who elected conservation, women who elected mastectomy were more tense and anxious (P < .01), more introverted (P < .01), felt more depressed and dejected (P <.05), and reported more sexual problems (P < .05). Those who elected conservation valued their physical appearance more highly (P < .01) and were generally more self-interested (P < .05). Mastectomy was dictated by medical considerations for approximately half of patients with breast cancer. Among candidates for breast conservation, the importance of retaining the breast appeared to be determined to a significant degree by measurable psychological factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)68-74
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Clinical Oncology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1987

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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