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Breast Cancer Surgery

Learn about breast cancer surgery

Doctor’s Note

Dr. Dennis Citrin of Cancer Treatment Centers of America discusses onco-plastic surgery and other breakthroughs in breast cancer treatment.

Surgery is the most common treatment for breast cancer. Depending on your diagnosis and the risk the disease will continue to spread, your surgical oncologist may recommend one or more options for surgery. He of she can explain them in detail, discuss their benefits and potential risks of each in your particular case, describe how your different choices may affect your appearance, and your options for addressing those physical changes.

In addition to surgery, you may receive adjuvant, or secondary, treatment to slow or halt the spread or recurrence of cancer. These treatments may include chemotherapy, radiation, hormone therapy, or a combination of these treatment options — called multimodality or combination treatment.


Words to Know

Margin is the border of tissue surrounding a tumor that is removed during surgery for testing. A clean — also called a negative — margin suggests all of the cancer has been removed. A positive margin indicates that some cancer cells remain and may require further treatment.

If you have relatively early-stage breast cancer, your doctor may decide that some of your natural breast tissue can be preserved without compromising your chances of recovery. If that’s the case, you may be a candidate for a lumpectomy, also called breast-sparing or breast-conserving surgery. In this type of surgery, only the visible tumor and a margin of healthy tissue around it are removed. Some of the underarm lymph nodes may need to be taken out as well.

Because a lumpectomy may leave behind a few undetectable cancer cells, the procedure is usually followed by radiation therapy to kill any remaining cancer and reduce the likelihood of a recurrence. Typically, the radiation treatment lasts for about six weeks.

In some cases, your oncologist may recommend chemotherapy before a lumpectomy — called neo-adjuvant chemotherapy — to reduce the size of the tumor. This may allow more of the natural breast tissue to be preserved.

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