DEAR DOCTOR K: I was recently diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. My doctor wants me to consider a lumpectomy plus radiation. But wouldn't a mastectomy be more effective?
DEAR READER: In a lumpectomy, just the cancer and tissue immediately around it are removed, and radiation therapy is used to kill any nearby cancer cells that might not have been removed. In a mastectomy, the whole breast is removed. Since sometimes breast cancer cells (invisible to the eye of the surgeon) can spread into the surrounding breast, it's plausible to think that a mastectomy might have a better cure rate than just a lumpectomy.