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Learning About Breast Cancer Surgery

What is breast cancer surgery?

Surgery is a key part of treatment for breast cancer. The type of surgery you have depends on the size, location, and type of the cancer. It also depends on your health and what is important to you.

Your doctor may combine treatments. This is a common way to treat breast cancer. You may have surgery to remove all the cancer that can be seen. After surgery you may also need radiation, chemotherapy, or hormone therapy. These treatments get rid of any cancer cells that may be left.

During the surgery, the doctor may remove lymph nodes from the armpit. The lymph nodes will be looked at under a microscope. This is used to check if cancer has spread from the breast into the lymph nodes.

What is a lumpectomy?

Lumpectomy

Lumpectomy
slide 1 of 8
slide 1 of 8, Lumpectomy,

Lumpectomy removes the tumour in the breast. The incision is made close to the tumour. This shows common places where the cut is made.

Simple mastectomy

Simple mastectomy
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slide 2 of 8, Simple mastectomy,

Simple mastectomy removes the whole breast, including nipple and skin. This shows where the cut is often made.

Nipple-sparing mastectomy with inframammary cut

Nipple-sparing mastectomy with inframammary cut
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slide 3 of 8, Nipple-sparing mastectomy with inframammary cut,

Nipple-sparing mastectomy removes the whole breast but leaves the skin and nipple. This shows the cut in the curve under the breast (inframammary).

Nipple-sparing mastectomy with lateral cut

Nipple-sparing mastectomy with lateral cut
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slide 4 of 8, Nipple-sparing mastectomy with lateral cut,

Nipple-sparing mastectomy removes the whole breast but leaves the skin and nipple. This shows the cut from the nipple along the side of the breast toward the armpit (lateral).

Nipple-sparing mastectomy with periareolar cut

Nipple-sparing mastectomy with periareolar cut
slide 5 of 8
slide 5 of 8, Nipple-sparing mastectomy with periareolar cut,

Nipple-sparing mastectomy removes the whole breast but leaves the skin and nipple. This shows the cut around the top of the nipple and along the side of the breast toward the armpit (periareolar).

Skin-sparing mastectomy with periareolar cut

Skin-sparing mastectomy with periareolar cut
slide 6 of 8
slide 6 of 8, Skin-sparing mastectomy with periareolar cut,

Skin-sparing mastectomy removes the whole breast and the nipple, but it keeps the skin that covers the breast. This shows the cut around the nipple (periareloar).

Skin-sparing mastectomy with teardrop cut

Skin-sparing mastectomy with teardrop cut
slide 7 of 8
slide 7 of 8, Skin-sparing mastectomy with teardrop cut,

Skin-sparing mastectomy removes the whole breast and the nipple, but it keeps the skin that covers the breast. This shows the cut around the nipple in a teardrop shape.

Skin-sparing mastectomy with tennis racquet cut

Skin-sparing mastectomy with tennis racquet cut
slide 8 of 8
slide 8 of 8, Skin-sparing mastectomy with tennis racquet cut,

Skin-sparing mastectomy removes the whole breast and the nipple, but it keeps the skin that covers the breast. This shows the cut around the nipple and along the side of the breast toward the armpit (tennis racquet shape).

What can you expect after surgery?

Your doctor will send the breast tissue to a lab for testing. This will help the doctor know more about the type of cancer you have. It may take up to a week or more to get the results back. Your doctor will discuss the results with you. You may meet with a doctor who specializes in cancer treatment (an oncologist). This doctor can help you decide about any other treatment you may need. Your needs and values are important when choosing a treatment that is right for you.

The amount of time you will need to recover depends on the type of surgery you had. It also depends on whether you need any more treatment.

If you had a lumpectomy, you will probably look the same in a bra. But your breasts may not match in size or shape after surgery. This depends on the size of your breasts and how much tissue was removed.

Surgery to create a new breast is called reconstruction. This may be done at the same time as a mastectomy. Or it may be done later. Some women choose not to do reconstruction at all. You choose what feels right for you.

No matter what kind of surgery you have, you will get information about your treatment. This includes how to prepare, what to expect, and what to do afterward.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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