Treating Breast Cancer: Surgery
There are quite a few breast cancer treatment options and you may feel overwhelmed when initially discussing and weighing decisions with your doctor. While the options will be narrowed by several determining factors (type/stage of cancer, your overall health, and whether the cancer cells are sensitive to hormones) the ultimate decision is largely based on your doctor’s recommendations and your preference of treatment. So to determine your preference, the first step is becoming well informed. In this blog series we will be covering a variety of treatment options including surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted drugs, and some general information on current and upcoming clinical trials.
While diving into the facts surrounding differing treatments is a good idea to familiarize yourself it’s wise to get a second opinion from a breast cancer specialist and talk with other women facing the same tough decisions.
Lumpectomy: This procedure essentially removes the breast cancer. It is also referred to as breast-sparing surgery or wide local excision. During this procedure the surgeon removes the tumor and a small margin of surrounding healthy tissue. Lumpectomy is typically reserved for smaller tumors that are easily detachable from the surrounding tissue.
Mastectomy: A more widely known procedure due to its all-inclusive finality, this procedure refers to the complete removal of the entire breast. The surgery can range from relatively simple to the downright invasive. Either the surgeon can remove all of the breast tissue (ducts, fatty tissue, lobules, and skin). Or, on the radical side of the spectrum surgeons may be forced remove underlying muscle of the chest wall along with the breast tissue and surrounding lymph nodes in the armpit.
Sentinel Node Biopsy: This procedure removes one, affected lymph node in hopes to catch the cancer before it potentially spreads to other areas of the body. The surgeon the lymph node that receives the most drainage from cancer – once removed, the lymph node is tested for breast cancer cells. If cancer isn’t found the chances of cancer in the remaining lymph nodes is minimal.
Axillary Node Dissection: If breast cancer cells are discovered in the sentinel node then a surgeon may elect to remove additional lymph nodes in your armpit. This procedure is usually carefully considered because survival rates of patients that underwent axillary node dissection is significantly lower than alternative treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiation, and lumpectomy (more on chemotherapy and radiation in the upcoming blog posts in this series).
As with all surgeries, complications can vary depending on the chosen procedure. All surgeries carry the risk of bleeding and infection.
Check back soon for next post in the treatment options series: Chemotherapy and Radiation.