Breast Cancer Surgery

When you have breast cancer, surgery is often a part of your treatment. Our breast cancer experts will work with you to determine a treatment plan that suits your needs and preferences. The reason for surgery may be different in each case, though it is often done to:

  • Remove as much of the cancer as possible
  • Reconstruct the original shape of the breast following the removal of cancer
  • Determine how much the cancer has spread by removing the lymph nodes under the arm

Surgery to remove breast cancer

There are many factors that need to be considered when you are facing breast cancer surgery. You and your doctor will work together to determine what kind of surgery fits your preferences. Some women with early-stage cancers have the choice between breast-conserving surgery and mastectomy, while mastectomy may be the best choice for others.

Lumpectomy
Lumpectomy is a breast-conserving surgery to remove cancer and a small amount of surrounding tissue. How much of the breast tissue is removed depends on the size and location of the tumor. Radiation therapy is often given after a lumpectomy to kill cancer cells that may remain in the breast area.

Less than 15 percent of Gundersen patients undergoing lumpectomy require a second lumpectomy. This compares to a national average of 20 to 30 percent.

Mastectomy
Mastectomy is surgery to remove all of the breast tissue. Your doctor may advise you to have a mastectomy if:

  • The tumor involves more than one area of the breast
  • The cancer has spread to the lymph nodes under the arm
  • The tumor is large
  • You are unable to have radiation therapy
  • You have already had the breast treated with radiation therapy
  • You are pregnant

In some cases, additional treatments may be necessary after a mastectomy, such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy.

Some women may choose to have a skin-sparing mastectomy that removes as little skin as possible. This may be helpful if you are considering breast reconstruction after your mastectomy. Breast reconstruction may be done at the same time as the mastectomy, or it can be done afterwards.

Breast reconstruction

Breast reconstruction is an option for most women who have had a breast removed because of cancer or have uneven breasts following other breast cancer treatments. You have options for your breast reconstruction. A plastic surgeon can insert breast implants, or they can rebuild the breast mound by using your own tissue. Nipple and areola reconstruction can be done to help make the reconstructed breast look more natural.

Some women choose not to undergo breast reconstruction. Breast prostheses are always an option for women who want to avoid surgery but still have the contour of a breast under their clothes.

Lymph node biopsy

One or more of your axillary lymph nodes are removed and examined to see if the breast cancer has spread. The sentinel lymph node is the node that the cancer may pass to first, before moving to other lymph nodes. Examining the cells from the node gives your provider an idea of the stage of your cancer. Additional lymph nodes may be removed if it seems that the cancer has spread. This surgery will help determine the best treatment plan for you.

Love + Medicine

Every day, Gundersen Health System delivers great medicine plus a little something extra—we call it Love + Medicine.

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