Breast Cancer Home > Breast Cancer Surgery

If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, your healthcare provider may recommend surgery as a treatment option. Your surgery may be a breast-sparing surgery or a type of mastectomy. Lymph node removal is often done at the same time as surgery for breast cancer to determine if the cancer has spread outside the breast. You may also decide to have breast reconstruction surgery, either during or after your cancer surgery.

Breast Cancer Surgery: An Overview

Surgery is the most common breast cancer treatment. There are several types of surgery for breast cancer. Your healthcare provider can explain each type of surgery, discuss and compare the benefits and risks, and describe how each surgery will change the way you look.
Surgery has an important role in breast cancer treatment. Most women can choose either breast-conserving surgery or removal of the breast (mastectomy).
Studies have found equal survival rates for breast-sparing surgery (with radiation therapy) and mastectomy for stage I and stage II breast cancer. However, neither option guarantees that cancer will not recur. Whichever choice you make, you will need close medical follow-up for the rest of your life.

Breast-Sparing Surgery

An operation to remove the cancer but not the breast is called breast-sparing surgery. It is also called breast-conserving surgery, lumpectomy, segmental mastectomy, and partial mastectomy. Sometimes, an excisional biopsy serves as a lumpectomy because the surgeon removes the whole lump.
During this type of surgery for breast cancer, the surgeon removes the breast cancer and some normal tissue around it (in order to get clear margins). This surgery usually results in removing all the cancer, while leaving you with a breast that looks much the same as it did before surgery. Usually, the surgeon also takes out some of the lymph nodes under the arm to find out if the cancer has spread.
Women who have lumpectomies almost always have radiation therapy as well. Radiation therapy is used to destroy any cancer cells that may not have been removed by surgery.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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