Psychological outcomes of different treatment policies in women with early breast cancer outside a clinical trial.BMJ 1990; 301 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.301.6752.575 (Published 22 September 1990) Cite this as: BMJ 1990;301:575
- L J Fallowfield,
- A Hall,
- G P Maguire,
- M Baum
OBJECTIVES--To assess outside a clinical trial the psychological outcome of different treatment policies in women with early breast cancer who underwent either mastectomy or breast conservation surgery depending on the surgeon's opinion or the patient's choice. To determine whether the extent of psychiatric morbidity reported in women who underwent breast conservation surgery was associated with their participation in a randomised clinical trial. DESIGN--Prospective, multicentre study capitalising on individual and motivational differences among patients and the different management policies among surgeons for treating patients with early breast cancer. SETTING--12 District general hospitals, three London teaching hospitals, and four private hospitals. PATIENTS--269 Women under 75 with a probable diagnosis of stage I or II breast cancer who were referred to 22 different surgeons. INTERVENTIONS--Surgery and radiotherapy or adjuvant chemotherapy, or both, depending on the individual surgeon's stated preferences for managing early breast cancer. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Anxiety and depression as assessed by standard methods two weeks, three months, and 12 months after surgery. RESULTS--Of the 269 women, 31 were treated by surgeons who favoured mastectomy, 120 by surgeons who favoured breast conservation, and 118 by surgeons who offered a choice of treatment. Sixty two of the women treated by surgeons who offered a choice were eligible to choose their surgery, and 43 of these chose breast conserving surgery. The incidences of anxiety, depression, and sexual dysfunction were high in all treatment groups. There were no significant differences in the incidences of anxiety and depression between women who underwent mastectomy and those who underwent lumpectomy. A significant effect of surgeon type on the incidence of depression was observed, with patients treated by surgeons who offered a choice showing less depression than those treated by other surgeons (p = 0.06). There was no significant difference in psychiatric morbidity between women treated by surgeons who offered a choice who were eligible to choose their treatment and those in the same group who were not able to choose. Most of the women (159/244) gave fear of cancer as their primary fear rather than fear of losing a breast. The overall incidences of psychiatric morbidity in women who underwent mastectomy and those who underwent lumpectomy were similar to those found in the Cancer Research Campaign breast conservation study. At 12 months 28% of women who underwent mastectomy in the present study were anxious compared with 26% in the earlier study, and 27% of women in the present study who underwent lumpectomy were anxious compared with 31% in the earlier study. In both the present and earlier study 21% of women who underwent mastectomy were depressed, and 19% of women who underwent lumpectomy in the present study were depressed compared with 27% in the earlier study.) CONCLUSIONS--There is still no evidence that women with early breast cancer who undergo breast conservation surgery have less psychiatric morbidity after treatment than those who undergo mastectomy. Women who surrender autonomy for decision making by agreeing to participate in randomised clinical trials do not experience any different psychological, sexual, or social problems from those women who are treated for breast cancer outside a clinical trial.