Surgical treatment is the current standard of care for breast cancer. Additional treatment such as radiation or chemotherapy may be required depending upon the outcome of surgery.
Some of the factors influencing the decision to perform surgery and the type of surgery required include:
- Type of cancer
- Size of the tumor
- Presence of multiple tumors
- Location of the tumor
- History of cancer
- Treatment history
- General health history
Where possible, our surgeons utilize breast-conserving therapy (BCT) as our primary mode of treatment. Most women with breast cancer can be treated using this approach. The portion of the breast containing the tumor is removed (lumpectomy) and the healthy tissue is left intact. Studies have shown that this approach can be as effective as a mastectomy in treating certain types of tumors. Your doctor will discuss your surgical options with you based upon your unique medical situation.
Should you and your surgeon determine a mastectomy is more appropriate for your medical condition, there are several options. First, your surgeon may recommend a modified radical mastectomy where the entire breast is removed and usually the lymph nodes in the armpit if they test positive via sentinel biopsy. In a radical mastectomy, the entire breast is removed including the chest wall muscles and lymph nodes if they test positive via sentinel biopsy. In a simple mastectomy, only the breast is removed.
One of the most common places for breast cancer to spread is the lymph nodes. A sentinel node biopsy tests the nodes where the lymph fluid drains from the breast to detect the spread of cancer. A radioactive substance is given prior to the biopsy where it will travel to the sentinel node. During the biopsy, the surgeon will evaluate this node for the presence of cancer cells. If this test is negative, no additional nodes will need to be removed. A positive test result will necessitate the removal of additional lymph nodes to attempt to remove the cancer cells.
During your testing and treatment, you and your surgeon will discuss all treatment options available for your situation and your surgeon will recommend the treatment protocol that is most appropriate for your condition.