Surgical therapy is the most frequently used and most successful cancer therapy available today. Surgery for cancer can be used to prevent, diagnose, treat, ease symptoms or improve function for individuals living with cancer.
Breast cancer surgery refers to the surgical removal of any tissue that contains cancerous cells to prevent the spread and growth of the cancer, and it may include everything from a relatively simple outpatient procedure, such as the removal of a cancerous mole, to more complex procedures that are individually tailored to the needs of each patient.
Surgeons who perform cancer surgery continue to develop new surgical techniques that are less invasive, cause less pain and have decreased recovery time. Leading approaches to surgical cancer care can involve the use of newer anesthetic agents, laser technology, endoscopes and laparoscopic approaches.
There are several types of surgery that remove cancerous tissue from the breast. Depending on your diagnosis, your surgeon may recommend a lumpectomy (partial mastectomy), mastectomy, axillary node dissection and/or lymph node removal. You may also choose to have reconstructive surgery at the time of your cancer surgery or at a later time.
- Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy
If you have invasive ductal or lobular cancer, or a large amount of ductal carcinoma in situ, the surgeon will need to biopsy the lymph nodes under your arm to see whether the cancer has spread from the breast to the lymph nodes nearby. This information is needed to plan further therapy for the breast cancer.
Get more information on Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy.
- Axillary Lymph Node Dissection
The lymphatic system is a series of vessels or tubes and lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are small bean-shaped structures, which run close to your vascular system (arteries and veins). The breast lymph vessels drain into the lymph nodes under the arm (called the axilla). If cancer cells are found in these lymph nodes, additional treatments may be recommended.
Get more information on Axillary Lymph Node Dissection.
- Lumpectomy or Partial Mastectomy
A lumpectomy or partial mastectomy is surgery that removes the cancer and a small amount of normal tissue around it. A surgeon will make a cut (incision) in the skin of the breast to remove the cancerous tissue and some normal tissue around the cancer. The amount of tissue removed depends on the size of the cancer.
Get more information on Lumpectomy or Partial Mastectomy.
A mastectomy is surgery that removes the entire breast. A surgeon makes a cut (incision) and removes all of the tissue of the breast including the nipple. The muscle behind the breast tissue is not removed. At the same time as the mastectomy, a sentinel lymph node biopsy will usually be performed. Once the tissue is removed, the incision is closed. The tissue removed during the mastectomy will be sent to the pathology lab after your surgery. The pathologist will make a detailed description of what the cancerous cells look like and how they are behaving. This procedure removes a minimal amount of skin but all the breast tissue. The nipple is still removed as well as any recent incisions. This is done only with immediate reconstructive surgery, and when healed, has a very good cosmetic result.
Get more information on Mastectomy or Skin-Sparing Mastectomy.
- Reconstructive Surgery
The goal of reconstructive surgery is to restore the appearance and feel of the absent breast. A plastic surgeon can create a satisfactory breast mound and nipple complex in almost all women. This can be of great benefit by eliminating the inconvenience of an external prosthesis and altering your body image. This is an area of personal choice and preference.
Get more information on Reconstructive Surgery.