The goal of breast cancer surgery is to remove the entire tumor from the breast. Some of the lymph nodes from the underarm area (axillary nodes) may also be removed to see if cancer cells are present.
There are two basic types of surgery to remove breast cancer:
Figure 5.1 shows each type of surgery.
With lumpectomy, the tumor and a small rim of normal tissue around the tumor are removed, but the rest of the breast remains intact. With mastectomy, the entire breast is removed.
Most women who have lumpectomy will have radiation therapy to the breast after surgery.
Some women who have mastectomy may also have radiation therapy.
Lumpectomy. The surgeon removes the breast tumor and a small rim of normal tissue around it. Some axillary lymph nodes may also be removed to see if cancer cells are present.
Image courtesy of Lange Productions (http://langeproductions.com/).
Mastectomy. The surgeon removes the entire breast (in most, but not all, cases this includes the nipple and areola). Some axillary lymph nodes may also be removed to see if cancer cells are present.
Breast reconstruction can be done at the same time as the mastectomy or later. Some women choose not to have reconstruction.
Breast reconstruction can help restore the look and feel of the breast after a mastectomy.
In rare cases, reconstruction may be done after a lumpectomy to maintain a more natural appearance of the breast, or to match the size and shape of the opposite breast.
Learn more about breast reconstruction.
Although the exact treatment for breast cancer varies from person to person, treatment guidelines help ensure quality care. These guidelines are based on the latest research and the consensus of experts.
The National Comprehensive Care Network (NCCN) and American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) are two respected organizations that regularly update and post their guidelines online. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) also has overviews of treatment options.
You may have a choice between a lumpectomy or a mastectomy. Almost all women who have a lumpectomy will also get radiation therapy. Some women may also get radiation therapy after a mastectomy.
For women who have a choice, overall survival with lumpectomy plus radiation therapy is the same as with mastectomy .
The choice of surgery does not affect whether you will need chemotherapy, hormone therapy and/or targeted therapy.
Recommendations for these drug therapies are made regardless of the type of surgery you have.
Learn more about lumpectomy.
Learn more about mastectomy.
Learn more about deciding between lumpectomy and mastectomy.
Our interactive treatment navigation tool can help you explore the different types of treatments you may have.
If you are facing breast cancer surgery, remember there are many women who have been where you are today. They had the same fears and made the same tough choices. These women have gone through surgery, recovered and are living their lives. They may be willing to talk to you and answer questions.
You can find other survivors on our Message Boards. Your health care provider may be able to help you how to find a local support group.
Learn more about social support and find a list of support resources.
Komen Support Resources
It is a myth that exposing breast cancer to air during surgery or cutting through the cancer might cause it to spread. Surgery and diagnostic procedures (such as surgical and needle biopsies) do not cause breast cancer to spread.
Learn more about talking with your health care provider.
Interactive Treatment Navigation Tool
Surgical Options Video
Questions to Ask Your Doctor Before Surgery
Questions to Ask Your Doctor After Surgery
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