Breast Cancer Surgery
There are two main types of surgery to remove breast cancer:
- Breast-conserving surgery (also called a lumpectomy, quadrantectomy, partial mastectomy, or segmental mastectomy) is a surgery in which only the part of the breast containing the cancer is removed. The goal is to remove the cancer as well as some surrounding normal tissue. How much breast is removed depends on where and how big the tumor is, as well as other factors.
- Mastectomy is a surgery in which the entire breast is removed, including all of the breast tissue and sometimes other nearby tissues. There are several different types of mastectomies. Some women may also get a double mastectomy, in which both breasts are removed.
Choosing between breast-conserving surgery and mastectomy
Many women with early-stage cancers can choose between breast-conserving surgery (BCS) and mastectomy. The main advantage of BCS is that a woman keeps most of her breast. But in most cases she will also need radiation. Women who have mastectomy for early-stage cancers are less likely to need radiation.
For some women, mastectomy may be a better option, because of the type of breast cancer, the large size of the tumor, previous treatment with radiation, or certain other factors.
Some women might worry that having a less extensive surgery might raise their risk of the cancer coming back. But studies following thousands of women for more than 20 years show that when BCS is done with radiation, survival is the same as having a mastectomy in people who are candidates for both types of surgery.
Surgery to remove nearby lymph nodes
To find out if the breast cancer has spread to underarm (axillary) lymph nodes, one or more of these lymph nodes will be removed and looked at in the lab. This is an important part of figuring out the stage (extent) of the cancer. Lymph nodes may be removed either as part of the surgery to remove the breast cancer or as a separate operation.
The two main types of surgery to remove lymph nodes are:
- Sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) is a procedure in which the surgeon removes only the lymph node(s) under the arm where the cancer would likely spread first. Removing only one or a few lymph nodes lowers the risk of side effects from the surgery, such as arm swelling that is also known as lymphedema.
- Axillary lymph node dissection (ALND) is a procedure in which the surgeon removes many (usually less than 20) underarm lymph nodes. ALND is not done as often as it was in the past, but it might still be the best way to look at the lymph nodes in some situations.
Breast reconstruction surgery is now considered an important step in the recovery process following a mastectomy. Dr. Butterfield provides Basalt area women the opportunity to restore their breasts to a natural appearance through breast reconstruction, allowing them to regain their self-confidence and once again feel comfortable in their own skin. Planning for this procedure often begins at the time of cancer diagnosis when a treatment plan is being developed. Dr. Butterfield will work with the cancer surgeon towards a mutual goal in order to meet the specific needs of the patient.
During the first consultation to discuss breast reconstruction surgery, it is important for patients to disclose where they are in the treatment process and which cancer surgeon provided treatment. Our office will require patients to provide any necessary pathology reports. The reconstruction process may take place in multiple steps if the breast tissue needs to be stretched to make room for implants. This discovery phase will help guide the reconstruction process so patients end up with a new breast that is the size, shape and look they want.
Each reconstruction technique will be tailored according to the patient’s physical health, aesthetic goals, and personal preferences. There are many factors playing into the approach that will be taken. The ultimate goal is to ensure the patient is healthy and happy with their final breast results.
There are two primary categories of breast reconstruction techniques:
- Procedures that involve using a breast implant
- Procedures that are autologous (use the patient’s own body’s tissue to reconstruct and recreate the breast)
Breast reconstruction using silicone or saline implants is a common approach that generally starts with the use of a tissue expander to help form a suitable pocket for an implant. The expander may be inserted after the mastectomy procedure or during the same operative session. Over the course of several months, the expander will slowly be enlarged using a sterile solution injected through a port residing under the skin. During the scheduled reconstruction surgery, the expanders are removed and replaced with permanent implants.
If there is limited tissue inside the breast, or limited skin on the outside, tissue may be used from another part of the patient’s body to supplement this loss. The most common areas to support this process are the buttocks, thigh or abdomen. This is an autologous approach to breast reconstruction. The TRAM flap (Transverse Rectus Abdominus Myocutaneous), the DIEP flap and SIEA flap techniques involve taking skin and fat from the abdomen and relocating it to the breast. The latissimus dorsi flap is another common method using tissue from the patient’s back.
During a mastectomy, the nipple and areola often cannot be saved. The loss of one’s nipple and areola can be as unnerving as the removal of the breast itself. However, reconstruction techniques have advanced greatly, allowing plastic surgeons the opportunity to recreate these areas of the breast to give a natural, aesthetically appealing appearance. In a separate procedure, the nipple is created using existing breast skin or from the abdominal or latissimus flap. Using a tattoo technique, the areola is recreated with a skin graft taken from the thigh, abdomen or back.