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Surgery

Surgery is usually the first line of attack against breast cancer. This section explains the different types of breast cancer surgery. Decisions about surgery depend on many factors. You and your doctor will determine the kind of surgery that’s most appropriate for you based on the stage of the cancer, the “personality” of the cancer, and what is acceptable to you in terms of your long-term peace of mind.

  • Lumpectomy, also known as breast-conserving surgery, is the removal of only the tumor and a small amount of surrounding tissue.
  • Mastectomy is the removal of all of the breast tissue. Mastectomy is more refined and less intrusive than it used to be because in most cases, the muscles under the breast are no longer removed. Please see Conservative Breast Therapy vs Mastectomy, Reshaping Your Options, What to expect before your breast cancer surgery and Mastectomy vs Lumpectomy to learn more.
  • Lymph node removal, or axillary lymph node dissection, can take place during lumpectomy and mastectomy if the biopsy shows that breast cancer has spread outside the milk duct. Some people qualify for the less-invasive sentinel lymph node dissection.
  • Breast reconstruction is the rebuilding of the breast after mastectomy and sometimes lumpectomy. Reconstruction can take place at the same time as cancer-removing surgery, or months to years later. Some women decide not to have reconstruction and opt for a prosthesis instead.
  • Prophylactic mastectomy is preventive removal of the breast to lower the risk of breast cancer in high-risk people.
  • Prophylactic ovary removal is a preventive surgery that lowers the amount of estrogen in the body, making it harder for estrogen to stimulate the development of breast cancer.