Surgical Options for Breast Cancer

Surgical Options for Breast Cancer

Have you or a loved one been diagnosed with breast cancer? You probably want to know more about your options. A doctor may have suggested surgery might be an option for you. Surgery is often the first line of treatment for this cancer. The Surgery Group of Los Angeles can help you understand the surgeries and which breast cancer procedure is right for you.

Breast Cancer Treatment Types

The treatment of breast cancer depends on what stage of breast cancer the patient has. Local therapies like radiation therapy and radiation therapy are used when the cancer is limited to one area, while adjuvant therapy, also known as systemic therapy, is used to eliminate cancer cells that may have traveled to other parts of the body.

Surgery or radiation may be used as the single means of treatment or in conjunction with adjuvant therapy. Adjuvant therapy can be used to ensure cancer cells do not spread. Sometimes undetectable pieces of cancer can remain or there can be a chance of recurrence. In these cases, your physician may recommend that you proceed with adjuvant treatment.

Why Treat with Surgery

You may be wondering why breast cancer is treated with surgery. There are many reasons your doctor may suggest surgery. It may be used to remove any cancer, or at least as much of it as possible. It’s also used to see if cancer has spread to the lymph nodes under the arms. Last, it can be used to mitigate symptoms of advanced cancers. Apart from treatment of cancer, surgery is used to reconstruct the breast after treatment. The stages of breast cancer and types of breast cancer will warrant different treatments.

Kinds of Breast Cancer Surgery

Procedures vary from removing a lump to removing the whole breast and/or lymph nodes in the underarm area. The goal of surgery in early stage cancers is to remove the tumor and/or tumor-affected areas. In cases of advanced cancer, surgery is used to treat pain, blockage of the liver, cancer that is pushing on the spinal cord, tumors causing an open wound, or to treat metastatic cancer in select areas (like the brain).

Lumpectomy

This surgery is used to excise the tumor and a bit of surrounding tissue, called a margin. The procedure is conducted in this manner to remove only the cancerous area and preserve the breast itself.

Since many patients require radiation therapy after a lumpectomy, those who can’t or won’t have radiation are not good candidates for the procedure. Pregnant patients, those with a tumor outside the breast, or with a large tumor generally are not treated with lumpectomies.

Mastectomy

A mastectomy is a more dramatic procedure. This surgical method involves the complete removal of the breast, though, in many cases, the skin can be spared. The muscles under the breast can sometimes be preserved. If you have cancer very close to the skin or nipple, then these may need to be removed as well. The location of the cancer will dictate the most effective procedures.

Simple Mastectomy

A simple (or total) mastectomy is used to treat cancer that is in the breast tissue but which hasn’t progressed to the glands. It’s also used prophylactically to treat someone who is at high risk of getting breast cancer.

Modified Radical Mastectomy

This surgery involves removing all the breast tissue. This includes the nipple and the lymph nodes under the armpit. The chest muscles are left in place. This treatment is used for invasive breast cancer.

Radical Mastectomy

This is a type of treatment that is uncommon. The surgeon removes the nipple, breast, chest muscles and armpit lymph nodes. Most of the time a modified radical mastectomy is effective. Your doctor would only recommend this procedure if there is cancer present in the chest muscles, as this surgery is disfiguring.

Lymph Node Removal or Dissection

The removal of axillary (armpit) lymph nodes may happen during a mastectomy or a lumpectomy. It can also be done on its own. Typically, this procedure is done when a biopsy shows the cancer is beyond the area of the milk duct. Some people may be able to have a sentinel lymph node dissection.

A sentinel lymph node dissection involves removing the very first lymph node that drains fluid away from the cancer-affected breast area. With this procedure, the doctor is looking to remove as few lymph nodes as possible. The idea is to only remove the lymph nodes that are likely to be cancerous. The surgeon may end up removing a cluster of lymph nodes, but this spares as many lymph nodes as possible by taking the most likely to be affected and sending them for pathologic testing.

Breast cancer treatment is not a one size fits all procedure, and you and your oncology team will create a plan that best suits your lifestyle, your cancer stage and type, and your cancer’s location. For a consultation, please call the Surgery Group of LA!

Sources

1. https://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/TreatingCommonBreastCancers.html

2. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/treatment/surgery-for-breast-cancer.html

3. http://www.breastcancer.org/treatment/surgery

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