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Understanding decision-making for and against oncoplastic breast-conserving surgery as an alternative to a mastectomy in early breast cancer: UK ANTHEM qualitative study.

BACKGROUND: Oncoplastic breast-conserving surgery may allow women with early breast cancer to avoid a mastectomy, but many women undergo more extensive surgery, even when breast-conserving options are offered. The aim of the ANTHEM qualitative study was to explore factors influencing women's surgical decision-making for and against oncoplastic breast-conserving surgery.

METHODS: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of women who had received either oncoplastic breast-conserving surgery or a mastectomy with or without immediate breast reconstruction to explore their rationale for procedure choice. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed thematically. Trial registration number: ISRCTN18238549.

RESULTS: A total of 27 women from 12 centres were interviewed. Out of these, 12 had chosen oncoplastic breast-conserving surgery and 15 had chosen a mastectomy with or without immediate breast reconstruction. Overwhelmingly, women's decisions were guided by their surgical teams. Decision-making for and against oncoplastic breast-conserving surgery was influenced by three key inter-related factors: perceptions of oncological safety; the importance of maintaining/restoring femininity and body image; and practical issues. Oncological safety was paramount. Women who reported feeling reassured that oncoplastic breast-conserving surgery was oncologically safe were happy to choose this option. Those who were not reassured were more likely to opt for a mastectomy, as a perceived 'safer' option. Most women wished to maintain/restore femininity, with the offer of immediate breast reconstruction essential to make a mastectomy an acceptable option. Practical issues such as the perceived magnitude of the surgery were a lesser concern.

CONCLUSION: Decision-making is complex and heavily influenced by the surgical team. High-quality, accurate information about surgical options, including appropriate reassurance about the short- and long-term oncological safety of oncoplastic breast-conserving surgery is vital if women are to make fully informed decisions.

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