Most women who are diagnosed with breast cancer will undergo some form of surgery to remove the cancer from their breast. In addition, most women with breast cancer will also have one or more of the lymph nodes under the armpit removed and evaluated, often using a technique called sentinel lymph node biopsy, to see if cancer cells have spread there.
The surgical procedures used to treat breast cancer remove either part or all of the breast tissue. Procedures that remove only a portion of the breast tissue are called breast-conserving or breast-sparing; removal of all of the breast tissue is called a mastectomy.
Breast-conserving procedures remove the cancer along with a portion of the breast tissue. These procedures traditionally include:
When a lumpectomy or partial mastectomy may distort the appearance of a woman’s breast, oncoplastic surgery may be an option. Oncoplastic surgery is a relatively new surgical option for women who desire breast conservation; this approach combines breast surgical oncology with plastic surgical reconstruction in a single procedure.
Mastectomy removes all of the breast tissue and variable amounts of other nearby tissue. These procedures include:
(* all or most of the skin overlying the breast is preserved with these types of mastectomies)
Because the skin that covers the breast tissue is not actually part of the breast gland, it is almost never necessary to remove large amounts of skin when treating breast cancer. When combined with breast reconstruction, preservation of a maximal amount of skin with a skin-sparing or nipple-sparing mastectomy will generally result in the best possible aesthetic results.