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Breast Cancer Surgery Options

The goal of breast cancer surgery is to remove the tumor and some of the surrounding healthy tissue. Your surgeon will try to save as much of your breast as possible. But sometimes the whole breast must be removed.

You should talk with your doctor about each of these operations. That way you can pick the best one for you. Your doctor may recommend a specific operation based on the size, location, or type of breast cancer you have. Each surgery has different side effects, and it is important that you go over your medical history with your doctor so that you can make the best decision.

Types of Breast Cancer Surgery

Breast cancer surgeries differ by the amount of healthy tissue that is removed with the tumor. Some lymph nodes under the armpit are usually removed as part of the operation so they can be checked for cancer cells. This will help your doctor plan your treatment after surgery.

Types of breast cancer surgery include:

  • Lumpectomy
  • Partial or segmental mastectomy or quadrantectomy
  • Simple or total mastectomy
  • Radical mastectomy
  • Modified radical mastectomy

Lumpectomy for Breast Cancer


Lumpectomy is also called breast-conserving surgery. The surgeon removes the tumor and a little bit of healthy tissue around it. A second incision under the armpit may be made to remove the lymph nodes.

The goal of a lumpectomy is to leave as much of your healthy breast tissue alone as possible. After the lumpectomy, radiation is usually used to treat any cancer cells that were left behind.

Lumpectomies are best for women who have small, early-stage breast cancers.

Some women shouldn’t get a lumpectomy:

  • Women who have already had radiation for their breast cancer
  • Women who have two or more areas of cancer in the same breast that are too far apart to be removed through one incision
  • Women who have large tumors

If you have a large tumor, sometimes you can get chemotherapy or hormone therapy to shrink it first, and then have a lumpectomy.

Partial or Segmental Mastectomy or Quadrantectomy



In a partial or segmental mastectomy or quadrantectomy, the surgeon removes more breast tissue than with a lumpectomy. The cancerous area and a surrounding area of healthy tissue are removed. Radiation is usually given afterward. 

Simple or Total Mastectomy


With a simple or total mastectomy, the entire breast is removed, but no lymph nodes are removed. Simple mastectomy is most frequently used to prevent new cancer from developing or when the cancer does not go to the lymph nodes. This procedure is usually performed to treat in situ, microinvasive, and stage IA breast cancers.

Radical Mastectomy

In a radical mastectomy, the surgeon removes the whole breast and nipple, lymph nodes in the armpit, and chest muscles under the breast. This operation is rarely done today because a modified radical mastectomy is as effective and is less disfiguring. 

Modified Radical Mastectomy


The surgeon removes the entire breast along with the nipple. Some lymph nodes in the armpit are removed. The chest muscles are not removed.


After Your Surgery

After breast cancer surgery, many women get breast reconstruction surgery. This can be done right after the breast cancer surgery or later on. The surgeon makes a normal-looking breast either with breast implants or the patient's own tissue from another part of the body.

Your hospital stay depends on the kind of surgery you get. Lumpectomies can be done on an outpatient basis, with the patient recovering in a short-stay observation unit afterward.

Mastectomies and lymph node removal surgeries usually require a 1- to 2-night stay in the hospital. 


WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Angela Jain on April 14, 2014

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