Home  >  Health Encyclopedia  >  Health Encyclopedia Home

Health Encyclopedia

 

Health Encyclopedia Home



What to Know About Surgery for Breast Cancer

What to Know About Surgery for Breast Cancer

The goal of breast cancer surgery

Surgery is the most common treatment for breast cancer. The goal of surgery  is to remove the cancer from the breast and from any areas where it may have spread.

Types of breast cancer surgery

The following types of surgery may be used, depending on the type of breast cancer you have. There are surgeries for the lymph nodes, surgeries for the breast, and reconstructive surgery.

You and your doctor can talk about and compare the benefits and risks of each type of surgery. Your doctor can also describe how each treatment will affect the way you’ll look afterward. Each of these types of surgery may or may not require additional types of treatment. When you have another treatment after your first treatment, it’s called adjuvant therapy.

Sentinel node biopsy

If breast cancer spreads, it usually spreads first to the lymph nodes under your arms. The sentinel lymph node is the node it reaches first. In this surgery, the sentinel node is identified and removed to see if it has cancer cells in it. If the sentinel node doesn’t have cancer, then the rest of your underarm nodes have a very good chance of being cancer-free. Therefore, this kind of biopsy can save you from having the rest of your nodes taken out. Sentinel node biopsy is often followed by breast-conserving surgery or a mastectomy.

Sentinel lymph node biopsy requires a great deal of surgical skill. If your doctor thinks you should have this type of biopsy, ask if the surgical team who will do the procedure has experience and does them regularly.

Breast-conserving surgery

This type of surgery is also called breast-sparing surgery, lumpectomy, partial mastectomy, or segmental mastectomy. The surgeon takes out only the lump and some surrounding tissue.

Mastectomy

For this surgery, the surgeon removes one or both of your breasts. There are three main types of mastectomies:

  • Total mastectomy (also called a simple mastectomy). This type removes your whole breast and often the lining over your chest muscle. 

  • Modified radical mastectomy. This type removes your whole breast, most of the lymph nodes under your arm, and often the lining over your chest muscles. Sometimes your doctor has to remove one of your two chest muscles.

  • Radical mastectomy (also called a Halsted radical mastectomy). Your doctor may do this in rare cases. For this surgery, the surgeon removes both of your chest muscles as well as those tissues removed in a modified radical mastectomy.

A skin sparing technique may be an option for some women planning immediate reconstruction. In this surgery, most of the skin over the breast (except the nipple and areola) is left intact, and the same amount of breast tissue is removed, as with a total mastectomy.

lumpectomy and mastectomy
Types of incisions for breast surgery: A is a lumpectomy, B is total mastectomy

Reconstructive surgery

This is surgery to rebuild your breast mound or shape after a mastectomy. You can opt for reconstructive surgery using artificial implants, or you can choose to have surgery that rebuilds your breast shape using tissue from another part of your body. That tissue can come from your back, abdomen (belly), or buttocks. Reconstruction can be done at the same time as the mastectomy or sometime later. The four main kinds of reconstructive surgery include the following:

  • Implants. Most often, a saline-filled implant is used. It's a silicone shell filled with salt water (saline). Silicone gel-filled implants can also be used. 

  • Implant with latissimus dorsi reconstruction. This surgery uses an implant and moves muscle, fat, and skin from your upper back when extra tissue is needed.  

  • Transverse rectus abdominus muscle (TRAM) flap. This procedure uses tissue and muscle from the tummy to shape the breast and an implant may not be needed. 

  • Free flap. This requires the use of a microscope to connect blood vessels to a flap of skin, fat, and muscle that has been cut free of its original location, which is often the belly, buttocks, or inner thighs.

 

 

 
Related Items
Wellness Library
  Solving the Breast Cancer Puzzle
  Reducing Your Risk for Breast Cancer
  Certain Factors Help Predict Invasive Breast Cancer
  Hope on the Horizon for Breast Cancer
  Stay Healthy After Breast Cancer
Content Type 167
  BRCA
  CA 15-3
  CA 27-29
  Immunohistochemical Test for Estrogen and Progesterone Receptors
Cancer Source
  Sex and Cancer: Questions for Your Doctor
  Breast Cancer—Understanding Genetic Testing
  The Soy and Breast Cancer Controversy: Cause for Concern?
  The 'Chemobrain' Phenomenon in Breast Cancer
  MRIs for Breast Cancer Screening—Who Needs Them?
  Hormonal Therapy: Managing Side Effects in Women
  If You Are Having Hormonal Therapy
  What Is Breast Cancer?
  What to Know About Your Treatment Choices for Breast Cancer
  Ductal Carcinoma
  Statistics About Breast Cancer
  Can I Get Checked for Breast Cancer Before I Have Symptoms?
  What Can I Do if I Am at Risk for Breast Cancer?
  What Are the Symptoms of Breast Cancer?
  How Does My Doctor Know I Have Breast Cancer?
  Tests That Help Evaluate the Traits of Your Breast Cancer
  Understanding Your Grade and Stage of Breast Cancer
  Breast Cancer: What Happens After Reconstructive Surgery
  Goal of Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer
  Do What You Can to Ease Side Effects of Treatment and Symptoms for Breast Cancer
  Finding Out You Have Breast Cancer
  What to Know About Combination Therapy for Breast Cancer
  How You Get Radiation for Breast Cancer
  What You Need to Know About Hormone Therapy for Breast Cancer
  Tips for Feeling Your Best During Treatment for Breast Cancer
  Taking Care of Your Incision After Breast Surgery
  How Your Doctor Uses Biopsies to Make Your Diagnosis of Breast Cancer
  Understanding Your Type of Breast Cancer
  What to Know About Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC)
  Can I Survive Breast Cancer? What Is My Prognosis?
  Am I at Risk for Breast Cancer?
  Myths About What Causes Breast Cancer
  Questions to Ask About Treatment for Breast Cancer
  What to Expect After Surgery for Breast Cancer
  What Happens During Radiation Therapy for Breast Cancer
  What to Expect After Radiation Treatment for Breast Cancer
  What Happens During Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer
  Making the Decision to Have Hormone Therapy for Breast Cancer
  What Happens During Hormone Therapy for Breast Cancer
  Ovarian Ablation as Hormone Therapy for Breast Cancer
  What to Expect After Taking Hormone Therapy Drugs for Breast Cancer
  What to Know About Targeted Therapy for Breast Cancer
  What Happens During Targeted Therapy for Breast Cancer
  Making the Decision to Have Breast Reconstruction After a Mastectomy for Breast Cancer
  When Breast Cancer Spreads to the Bones
  Exercising After Breast Cancer: Moving Toward Health
  Aromatase Inhibitors for Breast Cancer
Cancer FAQs
  Breast Cancer FAQ
NCI Patient Summary
  Breast Cancer Treatment and Pregnancy (PDQ®)
Quizzes
  Breast Cancer Quiz
MRAs
  Breast Cancer Risk Assessment
Adult Diseases and Conditions
  Breast Cancer Prevention Trial (BCPT)
  Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer Treatment
  About Clinical Trials: Information from the National Cancer Institute
  How Is Breast Cancer Diagnosed?
  General Information About Breast Cancer
  Other Treatments for Breast Cancer
  National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP)
  Post-Mastectomy
  Radiation Therapy for Breast Cancer Treatment
  Risk Factors for Breast Cancer
  Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer
  Stages of Breast Cancer
  Study of Tamoxifen and Raloxifene (STAR)
  Breast Cancer Statistics
  About Taxol
  Breast Health: Three-Step Plan for Preventive Care
  Treatments for Breast Cancer
  Hereditary Breast Ovarian Cancer Syndrome (BRCA1/BRCA2)
  Genetics of Breast Cancer
  Breast Cancer Overview
Newsletters
  Should You Consider Preventive Drugs for Breast Cancer?
  Should You Be Tested for the Breast Cancer Gene?
Test and Procedures
  Breast Biopsy