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Breast cancer

Breast cancer surgery

Whenever possible, and depending on 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 Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) will help you understand all your breast cancer surgery options so you can decide on an individualized treatment plan tailored to you and your needs.

Breast cancer surgeries include:

Breast conservation therapy (lumpectomy): This procedure removes a tumor from the breast. A lumpectomy differs from a mastectomy, which removes the entire breast. Women who undergo a lumpectomy are usually recommended to receive radiation therapy following surgery to help prevent recurrence. Some women are candidates for intraoperative radiation therapy, which typically limits the amount of radiation treatments needed after surgery. Commonly referred to as breast conservation therapy, a lumpectomy when coupled with radiation therapy is designed to allow a woman to keep her breast.

Mastectomy: This is the surgical removal of all the breast tissue. If breast conservation therapy is not a viable option, mastectomy may be recommended. Women who have cancer in multiple areas of the breast and/or large tumors relative to the size of the breast are typically recommended to undergo a mastectomy. Women with certain genetic mutations (BRCA1 or BRCA2) may also be recommended for a mastectomy.

In many instances, much of the breast skin and even the nipple may be spared to improve the outcome of reconstruction.

There are several different types of mastectomy:

Factors such as breast size, breast shape, type of cancer and the location of cancer in the breast and/or lymph nodes will determine which type of mastectomy is performed. Your breast surgeon will guide you through the decision-making process.

Reconstructive microsurgery: Using a woman’s own tissue is a common approach for building a new breast. The reconstructed breast may look and feel more natural. One option is an operation called the deep inferior epigastric artery perforator (DIEP) flap for breast reconstruction. The procedure removes skin and fat from the lower abdomen while preserving the muscle.

Women who undergo DIEP flap breast reconstruction often experience less pain and shorter recovery times than other techniques that do not preserve the muscle. By reducing damage to the donor site, abdominal wall integrity and strength may also be maintained.

For patients who have had previous abdominal surgery or who are not candidates for the DIEP flap, tissue may often be used from the thigh or buttock.

Sentinel lymph node biopsy: Depending on the stage of the breast cancer, your surgeon may recommend an axillary sentinel lymph node biopsy as part of your breast cancer surgery.

In an axillary sentinel lymph node, the surgeon removes the first lymph nodes under the arm (axilla) to which breast cancer cells may spread from the primary tumor location.

This procedure:

Next topic: What are the statistics about breast cancer?