What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer is a disease in which cells in the breast grow abnormally in an
uncontrolled manner. It is highly curable if found early.1
What types of surgery are used to treat breast cancer?
The two different types of surgery used to treat breast cancer
- Surgery to conserve the breast , combined with an exam of some of the lymph nodes under the arm
axillary lymph node dissection or
sentinel lymph node biopsy) and
- The removal of the lump in the breast and
some of the tissue around it is called a lumpectomy. You
may also hear the words "excisional biopsy" or "wide excision."
removal of the area of the breast that contains cancer as well as some of the
breast tissue around the tumor and the lining over the chest muscles below the
tumor is called a partial or segmental mastectomy.
- Removal of the breast (mastectomy ).
- The removal of the entire breast is
called a total or simple mastectomy.
removal of the breast, the lymph nodes under the arm (axillary lymph nodes),
the lining over the chest muscles, and sometimes part of the chest wall muscles
is called a modified radical mastectomy.
removal of the breast, chest muscles, and all of the lymph nodes under the arm
is called a radical mastectomy. For many years, this was
the most common operation for breast cancer. Many years ago it was called the
Halsted radical mastectomy. Radical mastectomy is not used now, because it does
not increase life span or decrease the chances that the cancer will come back
any more than other surgeries. A radical mastectomy causes many more side
effects than other surgeries.
What will help me decide which type of treatment to choose?
How far the cancer has spread within your breast and
whether it has spread to nearby tissues or other organs is called the
stage. Your doctor will determine the stage of your
breast cancer by gathering information from other tests such as lymph node
biopsies, blood tests, bone scans, and X-rays. The stage of your cancer is one
of the most important factors in selecting the treatment option that is right
Does one type of treatment work better than the other?
For many years experts thought that having a mastectomy would help you
live longer and reduce the chance that your breast cancer would come back
(recur). Studies now show that breast-conserving surgery followed by radiation
therapy is as good as mastectomy in treating early-stage breast cancer.2
Why might my doctor recommend a mastectomy instead of a lumpectomy?
Your surgeon may encourage you to have a mastectomy
- You have two or more areas of breast cancer
in the same breast that are too far apart to be removed with a single incision
(cut). After the surgeon removes both areas and some normal tissue around them,
you may not have much breast tissue left.
- You have precancerous
changes in more than one-quarter of your breast (one breast quadrant) or
throughout one or both breasts.
- Your breast cancer is large or is
large relative to the size of your breast, and removing it will require
removing a lot of breast tissue. You may not be satisfied with the way your
breast looks after surgery.
- You have a serious lung disease, such
emphysema. The radiation therapy needed after a
lumpectomy may make your lung problems worse.
- You have already had
radiation treatment to your breast or your chest to treat another condition,
- You have a connective
tissue disease, such as
scleroderma, that makes you especially sensitive to
the effects of radiation.
- You are pregnant. Radiation treatment
should not be used during pregnancy.
If you need more information, see the topic