Background: Current recommendations for surgical management of early-stage breast cancer include breast-conserving surgery with postoperative irradiation. However, studies show that mastectomy is still being used by women with early-stage breast cancer. Methods: Review of the medical literature published between 2000 and 2010 to determine the factors associated with the decision of patients for surgical treatment in early-stage breast cancer. Results: The following patient characteristics affect the surgical decision-making process in early-stage breast cancer: age, socioeconomic factors, geographic area in which the patient lives, proximity to a radiation therapy center, testing for BRCA gene, breast imaging, and decision aids. Conclusions: Of increasing importance in the decision making about treatment of women with early-stage breast cancer are the woman's perception of having a surgical choice and the influence of that choice on postoperative quality of life.
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