Surgery is a common and effective treatment used to fight breast cancer. Depending on the stage of the disease as well as other factors such as the location or size of the tumor, a doctor may recommend undergoing breast- conserving surgery or a mastectomy.
Breast-conserving surgery (also known as a lumpectomy) is the least invasive and is performed only when the cancer and a portion or margin of surrounding tissue need to be removed.
Mastectomies, which are more invasive, often require the removal of the entire breast. There are several types of mastectomies, however, the most commonly used procedures include:
- Total or simple mastectomy- This procedure requires the removal of the entire breast with the exception of muscle tissue and underarm lymph nodes beneath the breast.
- Skin-sparing and nipple-sparing mastectomy- Removes all of the breast tissue but saves as much of the skin of the breast, nipple or areola as possible.
- Modified radical mastectomy- The removal of the entire breast, overlying skin and underarm lymph nodes is required. This procedure is a modification of the more extensive radical mastectomy of which the entire breast, lymph nodes, nipples and chest wall muscle is removed. According to the American Cancer Society, this surgery is rarely done now because the modified technique has proven to be just as effective with fewer side effects. Radical mastectomies may still be performed to remove large tumors that grow into the pectoral muscles.
If the option is available after breast cancer removal surgery, a woman can choose to undergo breast reconstruction surgery. This operation is performed to rebuild the shape and appearance of the breast.
Some women may need to receive additional treatments such as radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy or targeted therapy after surgery. The course of treatment required varies from person to person.
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