When a doctor tells a patient "You have breast cancer" most women do not think of money or cost. The most pressing concern is getting the best treatment and getting well as quickly as possible. However, research shows that some treatments are aggressive and costly, but not necessarily more effective. While health insurance companies want to save money, patients want to survive and thrive, so it's a difficult subject to bring up cost when most women are just thinking "Fix it! Who cares about the cost?"
A new study at the MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas looked at cost, outcomes and complications involved in the most common treatment which is lumpectomy with whole breast radiation, versus mastectomy and reconstruction. There are significant complications as well as higher costs with mastectomy and reconstruction, yet the outcomes were not that much better considering the risks. Many women fear a recurrence and opt for bilateral mastectomy, but the rate of complications with this approach is roughly 56-64% depending on the woman's age, compared with complication rates of 29-37% with lumpectomy and radiation. It's a complicated set of factors that have to be considered for each patient, but more and more research is showing that sometimes, more is not better.