Surgery is usually the first line of attack against breast cancer.

Surgery is usually the first line of attack against breast cancer. This section explains the different types of breast cancer surgery.

Decisions about surgery depend on many factors. You and your doctor will determine the kind of surgery that’s most appropriate for you based on the stage of the cancer, the "personality" of the cancer, and what is acceptable to you in terms of your long-term peace of mind.


What to Expect With Any Surgery

There are basic steps common to all breast cancer surgeries.

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Mastectomy vs. Lumpectomy

If you are given the option to choose between surgeries, there are pros and cons of both.

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Lumpectomy, also known as breast-conserving surgery, is the removal of only the tumor and a small amount of surrounding tissue.

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Mastectomy is the removal of the breast tissue. There are multiple types of mastectomy, defined by what other types of tissues are removed.

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Lymph Node Removal

Lymph node removal can take place during lumpectomy and mastectomy if the biopsy shows that breast cancer has spread outside the milk duct.

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Going Flat After Mastectomy

Many people choose to skip breast reconstruction with tissue flaps or implants after breast cancer surgery and go flat, or live flat, instead.

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Understanding Your Options for Breast Forms

Some women who go flat want to look like they have breasts in certain situations, so they wear breast forms (or breast prostheses).

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Breast Reconstruction

Reconstruction is the rebuilding of the breast after mastectomy and sometimes lumpectomy. Reconstruction can take place at the same time as cancer-removing surgery, or months to years later. Some women decide not to have reconstruction or opt for a prosthesis instead.

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Prophylactic Ovary Removal

Prophylactic ovary removal is a preventive surgery that lowers the amount of estrogen in the body, making it harder for estrogen to stimulate the development of breast cancer.

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Cryotherapy, also called cryosurgery, uses extreme cold to freeze and kill cancer cells.

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— Last updated on August 2, 2022, 9:39 PM

Reviewed by 3 medical advisers
Thomas G. Frazier, MD
Main Line Health, Bryn Mawr, PA
Anne Rosenberg, MD
Thomas Jefferson University Health System, Philadelphia, PA
Marisa C. Weiss, MD
Lankenau Medical Center, Wynnewood, PA
Learn more about our advisory board
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