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Mastectomy and Breast Cancer Surgery

Mastectomy and Breast Cancer Surgery

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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.

Request a consult

When you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, you want a team that will work with you to determine a treatment plan that suits your needs and preferences. Gundersen combines an experienced team of qualifed surgeons with personalized care to ensure the very best outcomes.

To schedule a consult, call (608) 775-2385 or provide your name and email and/or phone and a member of our Cancer team will contact you. The information you provide us is confidential.

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Breast reconstruction: What to expect

Breast reconstruction is an option for those who have a mastectomy or lumpectomy.

Learn what to expect

Meet our providers

Lee Trombetta, MD, is a board-certified general surgeon at the Center for Cancer & Blood Disorders who specializes in breast cancer surgery. He works in conjunction with referring providers and other cancer specialists to surgically remove cancer in the breast(s) and ensure the very best outcomes.

Joseph Benacci, MD, Matthew Guzzo, MD, and Allison Derrick, MD, are board-certified plastic surgeons who routinely care for breast cancer patients. They work collaboratively with our cancer specialists in the Center for Cancer & Blood Disorders and understand how to best coordinate your reconstructive surgery with other cancer treatments you may have.

What if I have a family history of breast cancer?

Some women choose to remove the affected breast as part of their breast cancer treatment; however, women with an increased risk of developing a second breast cancer based on a strong family history, or an inherited mutation, may consider removing both breasts—one for treatment and the other for risk reduction. Removing the non-affected breast will not decrease the risk of recurrence of a current breast cancer but will reduce the risk of a new cancer developing in the opposite breast.

Many factors affect your probability of developing cancer, but our genetic counselors can assess your risk of inherited breast cancer. While most cancers are not hereditary, breast cancer and some others can be. Genetic assessment and testing can help you and your family understand the role genetics plays in your risk of developing cancer and provide options to minimize risk.

Who will support me during my journey?

Similar to a patient navigator, Gundersen's Cancer Patient Coordinator is available to help you access support services that may make your cancer diagnosis feel less overwhelming. This includes financial assistance with insurance copays or deductibles, medication, utility bills, transportation or lodging during cancer treatment and/or surgery.

Our patient coordinator has an office in the Center for Cancer & Blood Disorders. Learn more or schedule an appointment by calling (608) 775-1359.

Where can I find mastectomy bras?

Mastectomy bras are available for purchase at Gundersen's Center for Cancer & Blood Disorders, if you already know your size. If you do not know your size, it is important to get fitted. We commonly refer patients to Rochester and Burnsville, Minn., for mastectomy bra fittings since this service is not available in La Crosse.

Where can I find other products related to breast cancer?

tlc (Tender Loving Care) is an American Cancer Society (ACS) publication. We offer products for women coping with breast cancer or any cancer treatment that causes hair loss as well as advice on how to use these products. Products include wigs, hairpieces, hats, turbans, breast forms, mastectomy bras and mastectomy swimwear.

Gundersen's patient coordinator has many products available in the Center for Cancer & Blood Disorders and can assist with online orders. To schedule an appointment (or to make other arrangements if you're unable to travel to La Crosse), call (608) 775-1359.

Love + Medicine

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

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