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Breast Cancer Surgery Overview

The goal of breast cancer surgery is to remove the tumor itself and a portion of surrounding tissue, while conserving as much of the breast as possible.

What Are the Options for Breast Cancer Surgery?

Various breast cancer surgery techniques differ in the amount of breast tissue that is removed with the tumor, and that depends on the tumor's characteristics, its mode of spread, and the individual’s personal feelings. The surgeon also removes some lymph nodes under the arm as part of the operation so they can be tested for the presence of cancer cells. This will help your doctor plan your treatment after surgery.

The breast cancer surgeon should discuss the surgery options before the procedure. A specific surgical procedure may be recommended based on the size, location, or type of breast cancer. Some of the procedures you may discuss with your doctor include:

  • Lumpectomy (wide local excision)
  • Partial or segmental mastectomy or quadrantectomy
  • Total mastectomy
  • Modified radical mastectomy
  • Radical mastectomy (rarely performed)

You should thoroughly discuss these surgical options with your doctor to achieve the best outcome. Whichever type of surgery is your best option, you will be able to return home after a short stay in the hospital.

 

How Long Will I Be in the Hospital for Breast Cancer Surgery?

The length of stay in the hospital varies depending on the type of breast cancer surgery performed. Generally, lumpectomies are done on an outpatient basis, with the patient recovering in a short-stay observation unit after the procedure.

Mastectomies or lymph node removal surgery usually require a one- to two-night stay in the hospital.

Learn about chemotherapy for breast cancer.
Learn about radiation therapy for breast cancer.
Learn about hormone therapy for breast cancer.
Find out about breast reconstruction after surgery.

View the full table of contents for the Breast Cancer Guide.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Sujana Movva, MD on July 02, 2014

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