Breast cancer was diagnosed in about 292,00 U.S. women in 2015. About 40,000 women loose the battle with the disease annually. Surgery is one of the treatments that often works best for many with the disease.
Following a diagnosis of breast cancer, patients will discuss treatment options with a cancer care team. It is important to consider each therapeutic possibility. There are two main types of cancer treatment. Local treatments like surgery or radiation therapy are focused on treating the tumor without affecting the rest of the body. Systemic treatments are meant to reach cancer cells anywhere in the body, and include chemotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy, and bone-directed therapy. In many cases, women are advised to undergo more than one type of breast cancer treatment.
Surgery to Treat Breast Cancer
Most people with breast cancer will have surgery, but the reasons for the surgery differ depending on the patient. The procedure may be performed to remove as much of the cancer as possible, analyze whether the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes under the arm, restore the breast’s shape after the cancer is removed, or relieve symptoms of advanced cancer. Before surgery, it is important that patients and physicians discuss each option, the potential results, and the side effects.
There are different types of surgery for breast cancer, and the choice will depend on factors like the size of the cancer, whether it has spread from the breast to any other part of the body, breast size, and personal wishes and feelings. Surgery is more common in early stages of breast cancer, since the probabilities of removing the tumor and curing the cancer are higher. However, surgery for advanced breast cancer is also possible. While surgery is unlikely to cure breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body (metastatic cancer), the treatment may help slow its spread, as well as help prevent or relieve symptoms of the disease.
Types of Breast Cancer Surgery
Breast-conserving surgery and mastectomy are the two most common types of surgery available for patients with breast cancer. Breast-conserving surgery (BCS, also known as lumpectomy, quadrantectomy, partial mastectomy, or segmental mastectomy) consists of the resection of the part of the breast affected in order to remove the cancer and some surrounding tissue.
During a mastectomy, one entire breast or both breasts are removed, including all of the breast tissue and, sometimes, other nearby tissues. Physicians usually chose between the two, taking into consideration both patient and cancer characteristics. But in some cases, women with early stage breast cancers may choose between breast-conserving surgery 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,” according to the American Cancer Society. “For some women, mastectomy may clearly be a better option because of the type of breast cancer, the large size of the tumor, previous treatment history, or certain other factors.”
In addition to these surgeries, patients may undergo surgery to remove nearby lymph nodes so they can be microscopically analyzed to better understand the extent of the cancer. Breast reconstruction surgery may also be performed to restore the breast’s appearance after an initial surgery.
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