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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Surgery for Breast Cancer

Here is another in a series of posts on breast cancer during the month of October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Surgery is a very common part of the overall treatment for breast cancer.  Some patients may receive chemotherapy before surgery that will reduce the size of the tumor so less of the breast will have to be removed during surgery.  Surgery can also determine how far the cancer has spread.

The least invasive types of surgeries are breast-conserving surgeries.  With this type of surgery, only part of the breast is removed.

Lumpectomy – Only the breast lump is removed, as well as some of the normal tissue surrounding the lump.  Radiation therapy is usually given as a follow-up to a lumpectomy

Partial Mastectomy – More of the breast surrounding the lump is removed.  Radiation therapy is also given following a partial mastectomy.

Patients who undergo breast-conserving surgery may have some lymph nodes under the arms removed so they can be examined to see if the cancer has spread.


Total Mastectomy – This surgery removes the whole breast that has cancer.  Some lymph nodes under the arm may be removed so they can be examined.

Modified Radical Mastectomy – In this surgery the whole breast that has cancer, some of the lymph nodes under the arm, the lining over the chest muscles, and sometimes, part of the chest wall muscles are removed.

Radical Mastectomy – In this surgery the breast that has cancer, chest wall muscles under the breast, and all of the lymph nodes under the arm are removed.

Follow-up treatments to surgery include radiation therapy, chemotherapy and hormone therapy.

After a mastectomy, reconstruction surgery may be considered.  This may be done at the time of the surgery or sometime in the future.  You can discuss these options with your doctor.

For more information on breast cancer and breast cancer surgery, check out these links:

Breast Cancer (PDQ): Treatment  (National Cancer Institute)

Detailed Guide: Breast Cancer  (American Cancer Society)

Coping with a Cancer Diagnosis  (Susan G. Komen for the Cure) - PDF

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