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J Clin Oncol. 1989 Mar;7(3):367-75.

Breast conservation versus mastectomy: distress sequelae as a function of choice.

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  • 1Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, PA 15213.


Between 1981 and 1984, 93 stage I and II breast cancer patients were entered onto a trial at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) randomizing patients to excisional biopsy plus radiation v mastectomy. Between 1984 and 1987, 98 stage I and II breast cancer patients were entered onto a behavioral study in Pittsburgh, approximately 70% of whom elected to have breast conservation surgery. Patients at both sites were assessed three to five days postsurgery, and again at 3-month's follow-up, using a well-validated mood measure, the Profile of Mood States (POMS). There were no demographic or disease differences between the two samples. In the Pittsburgh sample, using a repeated measures multivariate analysis of covariance (MANCOVA) analysis, after adjusting for menopausal status and radiotherapy and chemotherapy toxicity, the conservation group was psychologically worse off (F = 2.7, P less than .03). For example, they were significantly more distressed over time (F = 5.5, P less than .02), and more depressed in general (F = 9.2, P less than .005). Using Karnofsky ratings, the two groups were identical in terms of disability at 3-month's follow-up. In contrast, for the NCI patients participating in the randomized trial, after adjusting for chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments, reported overall distress decreased over time (F = 17.4, P less than .0001) for all patients, irrespective of treatment group, and the between-groups MANCOVA was not significant. Thus, when comparing the two samples, when "choice" played a major role, the conservation patients were psychologically worse off--at least at 3-month's follow-up.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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