Surgery

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What are the goals of breast cancer surgery?

The first step and most common form of treatment for breast cancer is surgery. Surgery involves removing the tumor and nearby margins. The margin is the surrounding tissue that might be cancerous. The goal of surgery is to remove not only the tumor, but also enough of the margin to be able to test for the spread of the cancer. Once the removed tissue is checked, your post-operative report should tell you if you had “clear margins,” (meaning the tissue farthest away from the breast was free of any cancer cells.)

Some people with Stage 2 or Stage 3 cancer may receive chemotherapy first, which is known as “pre-operative “ or “neoadjuvant*” chemotherapy. The goal is to shrink the tumor. By making it smaller first, you may have the option of a breast-conserving surgery or lumpectomy instead of a mastectomy.

*The term adjuvant means “helper” or “enhancer.” Neo means “new” or “at the onset.” So a neoadjuvant therapy is a helper therapy delivered at the beginning of treatment.

How will I know what kind of surgery is right for me?

Either your doctor or a breast surgical oncologist (a breast surgeon specializing in breast cancer surgeries) will advise you regarding the surgery options to consider based on specific information about your breast cancer. You can discuss and compare the benefits and risks of each option and describe how well each possible choice can achieve the goal of ridding your body of the primary breast cancer.

Lumpectomy

Lumpectomy

A lumpectomy removes the cancerous tumor along with a rim of potentially healthy tissue around it (known as the margins) without removing the entire breast.  This procedure is also called a partial mastectomy.

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Mastectomy

Mastectomy

This surgery option removes the entire breast (or as much of the breast tissue as possible). In most cases, a skin-sparing mastectomy is an option. 

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Lymph Node Removal & Lymphedema

Lymph Node Removal & Lymphedema

In addition to your surgical procedure, your doctor may wish to remove and examine lymph nodes to determine whether the cancer has spread and to what extent.

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Reconstruction

Reconstruction

This is plastic surgery to rebuild the shape of the breast. It may be done at the same time as the cancer surgery or later.

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"I will still smile and I will still fight." After discovering a lump during a self-breast exam, Renee scheduled a doctor's appointment and was later diagnosed with an aggressive form of Stage 4 breast cancer.

"The moment I heard that I had breast cancer, I had a game plan in my head that I was going to fight," said Renee.

Watch Renee's story and discover why her inspiring testimony and life touched the hearts of the producers, directors, and staff behind the National Breast Cancer Foundation's Beyond the Shock program.

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"I will still smile and I will still fight." After discovering a lump during a self-breast exam, Renee scheduled a doctor's appointment and was later diagnosed with an aggressive form of Stage 4 breast cancer.

"The moment I heard that I had breast cancer, I had a game plan in my head that I was going to fight," said Renee.

Watch Renee's story and discover why her inspiring testimony and life touched the hearts of the producers, directors, and staff behind the National Breast Cancer Foundation's Beyond the Shock program.

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