Breast Cancer Surgery
Surgery is one of the main treatments for breast cancer. The type of surgery you have depends on the stage of the cancer and your own preferences. Your surgeon usually tries to keep as much of the breast as possible (breast-conserving surgery or wide local excision). If the cancer is not obvious to feel, a wire may be inserted into the tumour or a mark may be made on the skin under ultrasound to guide the surgeon.
Alternatively you may need to have the whole breast removed (mastectomy). If you are having a mastectomy, your surgeon will ask if you want a new breast shape to be made at the same time. This is called breast reconstruction. You may chose not to have this or may want to wait until you’ve finished other cancer treatments. There are a number of techniques to achieve this. They include the use of implants with an ADM (acellular dermal matrix) which are sheets of tissue to create a layer to hold the breast implant firmly in place. Or your surgeon may also be able to use your own body tissue to make a new breast, this is called a flap reconstruction, and may include use of skin and fat from stomach, thighs or buttocks.
During the operation, your surgeon may remove some or all of the lymph nodes in your armpit to check them for cancer cells. There are different types of lymph node surgery. Sentinel node biopsy is a technique where a radioactive source and a blue dye is injected around the nipple to locate the sentinel node, the node is then excised and sent to the laboratory to test for the presence of cancer cells. Alternatively if there are any lymph nodes found to be positive for cancer an axillary node clearance, where all remaining axillary lymph nodes are removed is recommended.
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