Before you have surgery for breast cancer, take some time to learn about the different types of procedures. You and your doctor will choose the best option for you.
Simple or Total Mastectomy
Your doctor removes your entire breast, including the nipple in this procedure. He doesn’t remove your lymph nodes, small glands that are part of your immune system.
Modified Radical Mastectomy
This may be a good option if you have invasive breast cancer.
Your surgeon removes all of your breast tissue along with the nipple, lymph nodes in your armpit, and chest wall muscles under the breast.
This procedure is rarely done today. The modified radical mastectomy is as effective in most cases, and it's less disfiguring. A radical mastectomy is usually only recommended if the cancer has spread to your chest muscles.
It may not be an option for you if you have cancer cells close to your skin, or if you plan to wait to have breast reconstruction.
Lumpectomy (Partial Mastectomy)
Your surgeon removes the tumor along with some of the breast tissue surrounding it. If you have this procedure, you'll most likely need radiation treatments to follow.
This may not be a good option for you if you can’t or won’t have radiation. Also, a lumpectomy is usually not an option if you’re pregnant, have a large tumor, or cancer that has grown outside the breast tissue.
Lymph Node Surgery
An important part of breast cancer surgery involves checking the lymph nodes to see if the cancer has spread. The doctor usually does this at the time of the original surgery, but sometimes he does that at a later time. There are two main types of lymph node surgery for breast cancer:
Axillary lymph node dissection (ALND). The surgeon takes out about 10 to 20 lymph nodes from under the arm. Those then get checked for cancer.
Sentinel lymph node biopsy. The surgeon finds and removes the lymph node where the breast cancer would most likely have spread first. This surgery is less likely to cause lymphedema, or swelling in the arm, than an ALND.
How Long Will I Be in the Hospital?
The length of your stay in the hospital will vary, depending on the type of surgery you have, how well you tolerate the operation, and your general health.
Lumpectomies are usually outpatient procedures. You’ll recover in a short-stay observation unit and will likely go home later the same day.
If you have a mastectomy or an ALND (Axillary Lymph Node Dissection), you’ll probably stay in the hospital for 1 or 2 nights.