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Surgical Oncology

For most women with breast cancer, surgery will be a component of their treatment plan. Today, the standard of care is breast-conserving surgery. It is called “breast-conserving” because only part of the breast—the part containing and closely surrounding the tumor—is removed. This leaves much of the breast looking as normal as possible.

A total mastectomy is defined as a complete removal of the breast. In the past, total mastectomy was the favored treatment and was considered the best means of completely ridding the body of cancer in the breast and chest areas. However, current studies consistently show that in the treatment of early-stage breast cancer, breast-conserving surgery combined with radiation therapy is just as effective in relation to long-term survival as a total mastectomy.

After carefully weighing your options, you and your surgeon will make a decision regarding treatment:

  • Lumpectomy or Partial/ segmental mastectomy: removes the tumor and an area of tissue around it
  • Total mastectomy: removes the breast tissue, nipple and areola
  • Modified radical mastectomy: removes the breast, nipple, areola and underarm (axillary) lymph nodes
  • Skin-sparing mastectomy: a procedure that may be used when performing a simple or total mastectomy. This method removes the breast tissue from a circular incision around the areola, and is often selected when reconstructive surgery is performed.
  • Nipple-sparing mastectomy: a procedure that may be used in patients with early breast cancer and those at high risk of developing breast cancer. This method removes the breast tissue via an incision lateral to the nipple or under the breast. It is selected when immediate reconstruction is planned.
  • Axillary Lymph node dissection: performed at the time of breast surgery if cancer cells are found in the sentinel nodes (the first drainage lymph nodes of the breast).The majority of the lymphatic fluid leaving the breast is drained through the axillary nodes (located in the armpit). An axillary lymph node dissection gives an accurate picture of the number of nodes associated with the cancer and provides guidance for a proper treatment plan.