It is common for a breast cancer patient’s treatment plan to include surgery. Typically, surgery is used to remove as much of the cancer as possible; however, the goal of surgery can vary. For instance, surgery can be used to assess the extent to which breast cancer has spread, or it may be recommended to relieve symptoms in instances when the cancer can’t be surgically removed. On the other hand, reconstruction surgery might be performed to restore the shape of a breast following a surgical procedure to remove a malignant tumor.
Surgical procedures used for breast cancer treatment
Common breast cancer surgeries include mastectomies and lumpectomies, although nipple-sparing and minimally-invasive procedures are also options. Other breast cancer surgery options include:
- Lumpectomy – A type of breast-conserving surgery, which entails removing a tumor (lump) in a breast and a small amount of normal tissue around it.
- Mastectomy – Surgery to remove part or all of the breast tissue. Different types of mastectomy vary in the amount of tissue and lymph nodes removed, including:
- Total (or simple mastectomy) – Surgery to remove the entire breast. Some of the lymph nodes under the arm may also be removed.
- Bilateral – Affecting both the right and left sides of the body.
- Prophylactic (or preventive mastectomy) – Preventative surgery to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer by removing one or both breasts before disease develops.
- Partial (or lumpectomy) – A type of breast-conserving surgery to remove the part of the breast that has cancer and some of the normal tissue around it. The lining over the chest muscles below the cancer and some of the lymph nodes under the arm may also be removed.
- Skin-sparing – This technique preserves as much of the breast skin as possible.
- Nipple/areolar sparing – The nipple and/or areola are preserved in place while the breast tissue underneath is removed.
- Modified/radical mastectomy – Surgery in which the breast, most or all of the lymph nodes under the arm, and the lining over the chest muscles are removed.
- Sentinel node mapping and biopsy – Sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) can be used to help determine the extent, or stage, of the cancer. In this surgical procedure with the aid of a dye, the sentinel node or nodes are identified and removed to be evaluated by the pathologist for the presence of cancer cells in the lymph node(s).
- Axillary node dissection (or axillary dissection) – Surgery to remove cancerous lymph nodes found in the armpit region.
- Breast reconstruction (PDF) – Surgery to rebuild the shape of the breast after a mastectomy. This can be done with implants or autologous tissue transfers.
"Breast cancer surgical treatments have evolved to be less invasive and disfiguring over the last several decades. As part of a multispecialty team of breast cancer experts, I can provide patients with individualized treatment options and help them with their decision-making process."- Nazanin Khakpour, MD, FACS
Why choose Moffitt for breast cancer surgery?
At Moffitt, we take a comprehensive, multispecialty approach to breast cancer treatment. Our experienced breast cancer surgeons offer a full range of surgical options using the most innovative and cutting-edge techniques. In addition, a full range of clinical treatments and supportive care is available – all in one convenient location. As a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, Moffitt is recognized for its ongoing research efforts in addition to its world-class clinical treatment. Our robust clinical trials program gives patients access to the most groundbreaking treatment options before they’re widely available.
Medically reviewed by Nazanin Khakpour, MD, FACS, surgical oncologist, Breast Oncology Program.