Types of Surgery for Breast Cancer
by E. Sweeney
There are several types of surgery used to treat breast cancer. The surgery used to treat different patients depends on several factors, including how much the cancer has spread, the size of the tumor and the patient's personal preferences. Generally, surgery to treat breast cancer aims to remove cancerous tissue. Subsequently, surgery can be preformed to reconstruct the breast.
The two most common breast cancer treatment surgeries are lumpectomies and mastectomies.
A lumpectomy, also called a wide local incision, is a removal of the infected tissue or tumor. Lumpectomies are followed by radiation therapy to eradicate other infected cells within the body.
During a lumpectomy, the surgeon removes all infected breast tissue, along with some healthy surrounding tissue to ensure all cancerous cells have been removed. This often leaves most of the breast intact. The next step is generally radiation therapy, which is exposure to high-energy radiation waves or particles that can destroy cancerous cells.
A mastectomy is the removal of the entire breast. There are several types of mastectomy; more involved surgeries may remove tissue from the lymph nodes and chest muscles if they are infected with cancerous cells. Some types of mastectomy can spare the nipple and the breast skin, making the breast better prepared for reconstruction.
During a mastectomy, the surgeon makes a single incision across the chest and removes all infected tissue. The incision is then stitched closed and sometimes taped to help bind the chest as it heals. Sometimes, tubes are attached to the chest, which can help drain fluids that have accumulated during surgery.
For women who have had mastectomies, breast implants can sometimes be preformed right away. Radiation therapy isn't generally necessary after a mastectomy, but there are exceptions.
A preventative mastectomy is a mastectomy preformed on a woman without evidence of cancerous cells.
Women who have a strong history of breast cancer in their families may opt for a preventative mastectomy and subsequent reconstruction for peace of mind. Doctors at the National Cancer Institute report that this surgery can reduce the chance of developing breast cancer by about 90 percent in women at high risk for the disease.
Choosing the Right Surgery
Lumpectomies are generally not recommended for women who are pregnant, because subsequent radiation treatments may be harmful to a developing baby. Lumpectomies are also generally discouraged for women who have multiple tumors and those who have a family history of cancer, which indicates that the cancer cells have a likelihood of reappearing. In these cases, a mastectomy is often recommended.
On the other hand, mastectomies are a major surgery and many women suffer psychologically from the loss of their breasts. Women with mastectomies can often have reconstructive plastic surgery or wear prosthetic breasts, but the implications of these options should be considered before surgery.
After a mastectomy, many women opt to have their breasts surgically reconstructed. Breasts can be reformed using synthetic implants or tissue from a woman's body (commonly the belly or buttocks).
It's important to understand that a reconstructed breast won't have the same sensations as your natural breast, and reconstruction often takes several surgeries.