Sometimes, surgery is needed to remove all or part of the lump so that it can be checked for cancer cells. Surgical biopsies are usually done in an outpatient clinic, so you don't have to stay overnight. For these biopsies you are given local anesthesia (you are awake, but drugs are used to make your breast numb). You may also be given medicine to make you drowsy. You can go home an hour or so later, when the sedative wears off.
There are two kinds of surgical biopsies:
- An incisional biopsy removes part of the lump
- An Excisional biopsy removes the whole lump, as well as a surrounding margin of normal-looking breast tissue
In either type of biopsy, if cancer is found, you'll need to have further treatment.
Two surgical options are available to treat breast cancer.
- Breast-conserving surgery removes only the cancerous lump, a border of surrounding normal breast tissue, and usually (but not always) underarm lymph nodes. It keeps as much breast tissue as possible. This surgery is sometimes called partial mastectomy or lumpectomy. A partial mastectomy removes more breast tissue than a lumpectomy.
- A mastectomy removes the entire breast and usually (but not always) underarm lymph nodes.
Some of the lymph nodes in your armpit (the axillary lymph nodes) may be removed to see if the cancer has spread to them. This information will help you and your doctors decide what further treatment may be needed.
A possible side effect of lymph node removal is swelling in the arm, breast, and chest, called lypmhedema. Radiation to the lymph node area increases the chance of lymphedema. There are things that can be done to try to prevent or reduce the risk of lymphedema - be sure to ask your physician.
Radiation therapy to the breast may be needed after breast-conserving surgery. This is done to help prevent the breast cancer form coming back to kill any cancer cells that may be left. This treatment works as well as a mastectomy for most breast cancers. More and more women are choosing breast-conserving surgery with radiation when it's an option for them.
Deciding what's best for you
Once you know your treatment options you can choose the surgery that's right for you. You may want to talk to someone who has already been through the operation you're considering.
Whether you have a breast-conserving surgery or mastectomy, the risk of recurrence is the same. If you are at risk for recurrence based on your stage of disease, you may get chemotherapy or hormone therapy to reduce the chances that the breast cancer might come back. This part of your treatment is just as important as the surgery to treat the breast tumor.
For more information on breast surgeries and treatment options, you can access www.breastcancersurgery.com or www.breast360.org.
Reconstruction of a breast that has been removed due to cancer or other disease is one of the most rewarding surgical procedures available today. New medical techniques and devices have made it possible for surgeons to create a breast that can come close in form and appearance to matching a natural breast. Frequently, reconstruction is possible immediately following breast removal (mastectomy) surgery.
Women who have had a mastectomy have a number of options for looking and feeling comfortable with their bodies. Many women don't mind wearing a breast form (breast prosthesis) after a mastectomy. Others would rather have breast reconstruction surgery. Some women feel that having their breast reconstructed helps restore their sense of wholeness and happiness.
In breast reconstruction, a plastic surgeon rebuilds the breast shape using either the woman's own tissue or an implant. This helps give a symmetric or balanced look under clothing. Breast reconstruction is possible for almost every woman, no matter her age. It can be done at the time of mastectomy or years later. It's also possible to have the nipple and areola (the area around the nipple) reconstructed.
Some women want reconstruction done at the same time as the mastectomy, so when they wake up from surgery, they still have a breast shape. Others prefer to have the surgery to remove the cancer first and think about reconstruction later. In some cases the reconstruction must be delayed, such as when radiation therapy is needed after surgery.
(via the American Cancer Society)
There are different ways that a breast can be reconstructed - for more information on breast reconstruction and what might be best for you, please consult with your physician.