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When you have breast cancer, surgery is often a part of your treatment. You and your doctor in the Center for Cancer & Blood Disorders will work together to lay out 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
What is a 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.
What is a 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 a mastectomy. If you're thinking of having breast reconstruction, talk with your doctor about it before you have your mastectomy.
Is breast reconstruction an option?
Breast reconstruction is an option for most women who have had one or both breasts removed because of cancer, or have uneven breasts following other breast cancer treatments. Breast reconstructive surgery can give the breasts a more natural look and help you feel your best.
There are many options, including:
- Reconstruction using breast implants
- Reconstruction using your own tissue from another part of your body (e.g. TRAM or transverse rectus abdominis flap)
- Reconstruction using your own tissue and implants
- Nipple and areola reconstruction to help make the reconstructed breast look more natural
If you're thinking of having breast reconstruction, talk with your doctor about it before you have your mastectomy or lumpectomy. Your doctor can tell you if reconstruction is an option for you. And, he or she can tell you what type of reconstructive surgery might work best for you and refer you to one of our plastic surgeons.
Immediate reconstruction - Reconstructive surgery of the breasts is often performed at the same time as your mastectomy.
Delayed reconstruction - If radiation therapy is part of your treatment plan, your doctor and surgeons may advise waiting until after the radiation is finished and after recovery from the mastectomy.
Some women choose not to undergo breast reconstruction. Breast prostheses are always an option for women who want to avoid reconstructive surgery but still have the contour of a breast under their clothes.