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Surgery for breast cancer

surgical oncology

What is surgery?

Surgery is used to diagnose, stage and treat cancer, and to manage certain cancer-related symptoms. At Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA), our experienced surgeons have performed thousands of procedures and will discuss the surgical options that are best suited to your individual needs.

Whether a patient is a candidate for surgery or not depends on factors such as the type, size, location, grade and stage of the tumor, as well as general health factors such as age, physical fitness and other coexisting medical conditions the patient may have.

For many patients, surgery will be combined with other cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy or hormone therapy. These nonsurgical treatments may be administered before surgery (neoadjuvant therapy) or after surgery (adjuvant therapy) to help prevent cancer growth, spread or recurrence.

Early in the treatment planning process, we plan for and proactively manage anticipated side effects from surgery. Our nutritionists, rehabilitation therapists and naturopathic clinicians work together with your surgical oncologist to support healing and quality of life. Our reconstructive surgeons perform procedures to restore the body's appearance and function when needed, at the time of surgery or following surgery.

Breast cancer surgery

Video: Breast Cancer Surgery

Breast Cancer Surgery

Dr. Aaron Pelletier addresses the top 3 things patients want to know about breast cancer surgery:

Q: Can reconstruction happen at the time of surgery?

A: Early in the process, you'll meet with a plastic surgeon to devise a plan for your reconstructive surgery. Your surgeon will pay close attention to your treatment plan and personal goals for reconstruction. Some women are able to have breast reconstruction at the time of lumpectomy or mastectomy. If immediate reconstruction is not possible, your surgeon will devise a strategy to help you achieve safe and effective breast reconstruction at an appropriate time.

Q: What type of reconstruction can I get and how many surgeries will it take?

A: There are several different and innovative techniques available for rebuilding a breast during and after surgery. Your surgeon may use implants or your own tissue to restore your breast’s appearance. Usually two or three operations are required to complete breast reconstruction. Your surgeon will evaluate all potential options and work with you to devise a safe and effective reconstructive plan that meets your individual goals and needs.

Q: What will my breasts look like after surgery?

A: Using a woman’s own tissue is a common approach for building a new breast, which helps the reconstructed breast look and feel very natural. Many breast reconstruction techniques can help spare the nipple/areola; and surgery is often performed on the other breast to improve shape and symmetry. Your care team will also provide integrative oncology services to address the physical and psychological consequences of breast surgery and enhance your well-being.

Surgery for breast cancer

For most women with breast cancer, surgery is part of the treatment process. Our highly skilled breast surgeons and surgical oncology teams have significant experience in performing surgical procedures for all types of breast cancer, including inflammatory disease. We have the expertise and capabilities to treat advanced breast tumors that involve the chest wall, and we also perform palliative surgeries to eliminate pain and increase your comfort level.

Whenever possible, and depending on your individual preferences, our surgeons perform breast-conserving surgery (also known as breast conservation therapy). We also provide a range of advanced surgical techniques for breast reconstruction.

We recognize that breast cancer surgery is a personal decision that can often be complex and overwhelming. Your care team at CTCA will help you understand all of your breast cancer surgery options so you can decide on an individualized treatment plan that is right for you. 

What are the side effects of breast cancer surgery?

Surgical procedures for breast cancer can cause short-term pain and tenderness in the treated area. Also, the skin in the breast area may feel tight, and the muscles of the arm may feel stiff or weak. Surgery involving the lymph nodes can sometimes cause swelling in the arm, a condition called lymphedema. Rarely there are situations when additional surgery may be necessary to achieve complete removal of the cancer.

Meeting your individual needs

Breast cancer surgery can have psychological and social impact, in addition to the physical effects; and these changes can affect your sense of femininity and sexuality. Your integrated care team at CTCA includes clinicians from multiple disciplines to help address these issues and enhance your overall well-being before, during and after breast cancer surgery:

  • Prior to breast cancer surgery, your care team will explain what you can expect for recovery, answer any questions you may have, and help you feel comfortable with the upcoming procedure.
  • During breast cancer surgery, your anesthesiologist will keep you safe, comfortable and help minimize post-operative nausea and pain. A pathologist will evaluate tissue samples as they are removed and provide immediate information to your surgeon to facilitate optimal removal of the tumor, helping to reduce the likelihood that you will have to undergo multiple surgeries.
  • After breast cancer surgery, your pain management practitioner will help control your pain, and your mind-body therapist will provide counseling. Your rehabilitation therapist will help you regain strength and manage any problems with muscle spasm, tightness or lymphedema. If reconstruction is not performed immediately, an image enhancement specialist will help you find ways to look and feel your best.

In addition, before, during and after your breast cancer procedure, your dietitian and naturopathic clinician will help you stay nutritionally fortified by providing diet and supplement recommendations.

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