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.