Surgery for breast cancer
If you have been diagnosed with early or locally advanced breast cancer, you will usually be offered surgery to remove the cancer. In some cases of locally advanced breast cancer, treatment begins with chemotherapy to shrink the tumour before surgery.
Surgery for early breast cancer will be either breast-conserving surgery, where part of the breast is removed, or a mastectomy, where the whole breast is removed. A mastectomy is usually recommended for locally advanced breast cancer.
In most cases, breast surgery also involves removing one or more lymph nodes from the armpit. In some cases, breast reconstruction will be done at the same time as a mastectomy, but it may also be done as a separate operation later.
Learn more about:
- Which surgery should I have?
- Types of surgery
- Breast-conserving surgery
- Breast reconstruction
- Removing lymph nodes
- What to expect after breast surgery
- What to expect when you get home
- Side effects of surgery
- Video: What is surgery?
Some women will be offered a choice between breast-conserving surgery and a mastectomy. Men don’t usually have breast-conserving surgery.
Research has shown that breast-conserving surgery, when combined with sentinel node biopsy and followed by radiation therapy, is as effective as mastectomy for most women with early breast cancer. The chance of the cancer coming back in another part of the body is the same with either type of surgery.
The operations have different benefits, risks and side effects. Talk to your doctor about the best option for you.
Types of surgery
How your breasts look after surgery will depend on the type of surgery and a range of individual factors. Your surgeon can show you more examples to help you choose the surgery that is right for you.
Two years after surgery to left breast. The surgery was followed by radiation therapy.
Left breast removed, with no reconstruction.
|Nipple-sparing mastectomy with implant reconstruction|
Right breast removed with a nipple-sparing mastectomy, followed by reconstruction using an implant. If it is not possible to keep the nipple, there is the option of having a nipple
|Mastectomy with a flap reconstruction|
Right breast removed, followed by reconstruction using tissue from the back. A reconstruction can also be done with tissue from the abdomen, buttock or thigh. Some women choose to have a nipple reconstruction later.
Video: What is surgery?
Prof Christobel Saunders, Professor of Surgical Oncology and Head, Division of Surgery, The University of Western Australia, and Consultant Surgeon, Royal Perth, Fiona Stanley and St John of God Subiaco Hospitals, WA; Dr Marie-Frances Burke, Radiation Oncologist, Medical Director, Genesis CancerCare Queensland, QLD; Kylie Campbell, Breast Care Nurse and Clinical Lead, Murraylands, McGrath Foundation, SA; Carmen Heathcote, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland, QLD; Annmaree Mitchell, Consumer; Sarah Pratt, Nurse Coordinator, Breast Service, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Wendy Vincent, Breast Physician, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and Royal Hospital for Women, Randwick, NSW, and Clinical Director BreastScreen NSW, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, NSW; A/Prof Nicholas Wilcken, Director of Medical Oncology, Westmead Hospital, and Co-ordinating Editor, Cochrane Breast Cancer Group, NSW. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title. This booklet is funded through the generosity of the people of Australia.
The photographs above have been reproduced with permission from: Dr James French, Westmead Breast Cancer Institute, NSW (first and second photo above); A/Prof Elisabeth Elder, The University of Sydney and Westmead Breast Cancer Institute, NSW (third photo above); and Breast Cancer: Taking Control, breastcancertakingcontrol.com © Boycare Publishing 2010 (last photo above).
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
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