Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer, affecting thousands of women across the U.S. each year.
Breast cancer treatments comprise various techniques and therapies, including different surgeries. Here are the three most common ones:
A lumpectomy is a breast-conserving surgery in which only a section of the breast tissue is removed. It’s usually recommended for patients with early-stage breast cancer since the tumor is relatively small at that point. A lumpectomy can be performed to remove the tumor from the breast tissue, essentially removing the “lump” on the breast. A portion of the surrounding tissue is also removed to ensure no stray cancer cells are left behind at the treatment site.
The type of lumpectomy performed depends on the size and location of the tumor. Surgeons may perform an excisional biopsy, a quadrantectomy, or a wide local excision. In most cases, radiation therapy post surgery is recommended for patients in order to eliminate cancer cells that may not have been removed.
A mastectomy is a breast removal surgery usually used to treat late-stage breast cancer. However, many patients with early-stage breast cancer opt for a mastectomy to avoid radiation therapy. The procedure involves removing the entire breast tissue to remove large tumors or cancer cells that have spread. There are different types of mastectomy, including:
Total mastectomy: This procedure removes the entire breast, leaving behind the chest muscle underneath it.
Double mastectomy: This procedure is the same as a total mastectomy except that it removes both breasts. It’s usually performed if cancer has spread to both breasts or as a preventive measure for high-risk patients.
Nipple-sparing mastectomy: This procedure removes all the breast tissue but leaves the nipples and the skin around them for breast reconstruction in the future.
Radical mastectomy: This procedure removes the breasts, chest muscles, and underarm lymph nodes. It’s usually reserved for more severe cases where cancer has spread to the chest muscles.
Modified radical mastectomy: This procedure removes the breast tissue and the underarm lymph nodes.
Another form of breast cancer surgery involves the lymph nodes. There are two types of lymph node surgery: axillary lymph node dissection and sentinel lymph node biopsy.
The former is performed to examine the lymph nodes for cancer. Usually, around 10 to 20 lymph nodes are removed from under the arm. In a sentinel lymph node biopsy, the surgeon removes the lymph node where they expect the breast cancer to spread.
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