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Breast Cancer - Surgery

Most people with breast cancer have surgery to remove the cancer. You may have breast-conserving surgery or surgery to remove the entire breast. Some of the lymph nodes under the arm may also be removed to check for cancer cells.

The kind of surgery you have may depend on the size and location of your cancer and your personal preferences.

Breast Cancer: Should I Have Breast-Conserving Surgery or a Mastectomy for Early-Stage Cancer?

Surgery that allows you to keep your breast

Procedures include:

Talk to your doctor about what your breast might look like after the surgery.

Removal of the breast (mastectomy)

Mastectomy procedures include:

  • Total or simple mastectomy, which is the removal of the whole breast.
  • Modified radical mastectomy, which is the removal of the breast, some of the lymph nodes under the arm, and sometimes part of the chest wall muscles.
  • Radical mastectomy, which is the removal of the breast, chest muscles, and all of the lymph nodes under the arm (axillary lymph node dissection). This surgery is rarely used.

Breast reconstruction

After mastectomy, a new breast can be reconstructed. Your surgeon will rebuild the shape of your breast using artificial implants or tissue from other parts of your body.

If you want breast reconstruction, talk to your doctor before your surgery is planned. You may be able to have breast reconstruction immediately following your mastectomy.

Or your doctor may suggest that you wait until later for breast reconstruction if you are going to have further treatment, such as radiation. If so, you may want to use a breast prosthesis until you have your reconstruction.

Breast Cancer: Should I Have Breast Reconstruction After a Mastectomy?

For more information about reconstructive surgery, see the topic Cosmetic Surgery and Procedures.


WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 18, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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