Breast Cancer Home > Breast Cancer Surgery

Radical Mastectomy
In a radical mastectomy, the surgeon removes the breast, chest muscles, and all the lymph nodes under the arm. This was the standard operation for many years, but it is used now only when a tumor has spread to the chest muscles.
Even if the doctor removes all of the cancer that can be seen at the time of surgery, the patient may be given radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or hormone therapy after breast cancer surgery to try to kill any cancer cells that may be left. Breast cancer treatment given after surgery to increase the chances of a cure is called adjuvant therapy for breast cancer.
If a patient is going to have a mastectomy, breast reconstruction (surgery to rebuild a breast's shape after a mastectomy) may be considered.

Lymph Node Removal

Whether you have a lumpectomy or mastectomy, your surgeon will probably remove some of the lymph nodes under your arm. This procedure is usually done at the same time as the breast cancer surgery to check if the cancer has spread outside the breast. Clear lymph nodes are reported as negative nodes. If cancer is found, you have positive nodes. Your doctor will talk with you about any additional treatments needed to destroy and control cancer cells if positive nodes are discovered.

Breast Reconstruction Surgery

You may choose to have breast reconstruction surgery. This is plastic surgery to rebuild the shape of the breast. It may be done at the same time as a mastectomy or later. If you are considering reconstruction, you may want to talk with a plastic surgeon before having a mastectomy (see Breast Cancer Reconstruction for more information).
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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