What is Breast Cancer Surgery?
Breast cancer surgery is the removal of cancer from breast tissue. There are several different types of breast cancer surgery, including:
- Excisional or incisional biopsy
- Simple mastectomy
- Subcutaneous mastectomy
- Partial mastectomy
- Modified radical mastectomy
- Nipple/subareolar duct exploration
- Breast reconstruction
What Treatment is Recommended for Breast Cancer?
When it comes to breast cancer, the recommended treatment is usually a combination of surgery and additional "adjuvant therapy" that includes radiation, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and/or hormonal therapy. The type of surgery required will be based on the stage of the tumor and its subtype. The surgical decision will also depend on genetic factors such as the inherited genes, BRCA1 or BRCA2. Treatment for breast cancer is not one-size-fits-all. It is customized to each patient.
What Happens During Breast Cancer Surgery?
Breast cancer surgery involves the removal of the tumor and an appropriate amount of surrounding tissue to ensure that all the cancer is removed. Generally, surgery will be either in the form of a lumpectomy or a mastectomy.
During a lumpectomy, the tumor itself is removed with a small amount of the surrounding tissue to ensure a cancer-free margin. With a lumpectomy, the patient can retain most of their breast. It is considered a breast-conserving procedure. Lumpectomy is the preferred procedure for women with newly diagnosed cancer and more minor, less-invasive tumors.
A mastectomy is the surgical removal of the entire breast. If the tumor is significant in relation to the size of the breast, mastectomy may be the best way to ensure that all of the cancer is removed.
During the Actual Surgery
During surgery, Dr. Gay will make an incision in the breast to remove the tumor and the appropriate amount of surrounding tissue. If the procedure is a mastectomy, this removal usually includes breast tissue, the nipple, areola, and surrounding skin. The general surgeon will also remove lymph nodes closest to the tumor to avoid draining fluid into them. If cancer is detected in the lymph nodes, the surgeon will need to remove additional lymph nodes and require radiation therapy following surgery.
Once the removal of tissue is complete, the incision will be carefully closed. The surgeon pays particular attention to closure, focusing on the appearance of the patient's scar. They will use dissolvable stitches to minimize scarring.
If the procedure is a mastectomy and the patient has opted for reconstruction, the beginning of the reconstruction may begin during the initial surgery.
What is the Recovery Like After Breast Cancer Surgery?
Recovery from breast cancer surgery will depend on the extent of the procedure.
Recovery from Lumpectomy
Most people can resume their daily activities within 5-10 days following surgery. Side effects from lumpectomy can include fatigue and possible skin reactions to radiation therapy.
Recovery from Mastectomy
Recovery from a mastectomy can take a lot longer than that of a lumpectomy. The typical recovery time from a mastectomy is 3-4 weeks following surgery. During the recovery period, the patient may experience a feeling of being off-balance from the absence of the breast. Mastectomy patients may also experience pain in their neck and shoulder. If reconstruction is involved, the recovery time is closer to 6-8 weeks following surgery. Part of the recovery time will be adjusting to their new breast, and implants can be challenging to adjust to at times.
Recovery when Lymph Nodes Are Removed
When breast cancer has spread into the surrounding lymph nodes, leading to the necessity for lymph node removal, a patient may have other challenges during the recovery period. The patient may experience pain and limited movement of their shoulder or arm. They may also experience numbness in their upper arms and fluid build-up, or edema, in their arms and hands. When the lymph nodes are involved, the patient has an increased risk for infection, bleeding, and blood clots.
Why Choose Dr. Daniel Gay for Breast Cancer Surgery?
Dr. Daniel Gay is a general surgeon serving those in Boise, Meridian, and Caldwell, Idaho. He has extensive experience with breast cancer surgery, including all stages of the journey from biopsy through the primary surgical procedure. He and his staff believe in using compassionate treatment of their patients, which aligns with the values of his practice. You will always be treated with the utmost respect. Whenever possible, Dr. Gay will use the most minimally invasive process available. To schedule a consultation for breast cancer surgery,
contact Dr. Gay's office.