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New booklet helps women weigh surgery options for early-stage breast cancer

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has partnered with the National Cancer Institute, other HHS components, and the non-Federal National Research Center for Women and Families to produce a resource for women newly diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. Early-stage breast cancer includes stages I through IIIA breast cancer and Stage 0, which includes ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS, very early breast cancer that is often too small to form a lump) and lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS, not cancer but may increase the chance that a person will get breast cancer).

Treatment for early-stage breast cancer usually includes either breast-conserving surgery (lumpectomy) along with radiation therapy or mastectomy (complete removal of the affected breast or breasts). Many women do not understand the repercussions of these surgeries and may not be aware that survival rates are virtually equal for both types of surgery. Perhaps that's why more than one-third of these women do not decide and instead defer to their physicians to choose the surgical procedure they will have. Nearly half of affected women ultimately have a mastectomy—complete breast removal—rather than breast-conserving surgery—lumpectomy—in which only the cancerous tissue is removed from within the affected breast.

The new booklet, Surgery Choices for Women with Early-Stage Breast Cancer, will help women weigh the pros and cons of their surgical options and take a more active role in their breast cancer treatment. A unique feature of the booklet is the "Compare Your Choices" chart, which helps patients compare surgery options. The chart includes information on surgery side effects, additional treatments, and the chance of cancer recurrence for each surgery type. The booklet also provides a list of government and non-government sources of more information on breast cancer and its treatment.

Print copies of Surgery Choices for Women with Early-Stage Breast Cancer (AHRQ Publication No. PHS 04-M053) are available from the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse.

Select to access the booklet online.

Editor's Note: The 24-page booklet was developed over the course of 2 years, beginning with a technical report from an AHRQ-sponsored scientific meeting on early-stage breast cancer treatment. The final product, which is written in easy-to-understand language, was reviewed and edited by the Food and Drug Administration and pilot tested with women in Denver, Baltimore, and selected rural areas of the country. In addition to AHRQ, the National Cancer Institute, and the National Research Center for Women & Families, other partners included NCI's Office of Women's Health and the Office of Women's Health at the Department of Health and Human Services.

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