Breast Cancer Surgery: The Options

There are a number of different options for breast cancer surgery.  The aim is to remove the tumour along with a small amount of the surrounding tissue.  Your surgeon will discuss all of the options with you and will recommend a particular operation based upon the location, type and size of cancer you have.

Types of Breast Cancer Surgery

Breast cancer surgery varies depending on the amount of tissue the surgeon wants to remove with the tumour.  Some of the lymph nodes in your armpit will probably also be removed in order that they can be screened for cancerous cells.


Lumpectomy is the preferred surgical option for women with early-stage breast cancer, small or single tumours.

During a lumpectomy the surgeon removes the tumour together with a small amount of healthy tissue surrounding it and the lymph nodes.  Following the operation radiation will be used to treat any remaining cancer cells.

Partial or Segmental Mastectomy or Quadrantectomy

This procedure entails the removal of more breast tissue than with a lumpectomy.  The cancer and an area of healthy tissue surrounding it are removed and radiation is given afterwards.

Simple or Total Mastectomy

With a simple or total mastectomy the surgeon will remove the entire breast.  The lymph nodes are not removed.  This procedure is usually used to stop new cancer from forming, or in cases where the cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes. 

Radical Mastectomy

A radical mastectomy procedure involves the removal of the whole breast; the nipple, the lymph nodes in the armpit, and the muscles in the chest that sit beneath the breast.  This operation is not carried out commonly anymore as it is very disfiguring.

Modified Radical Mastectomy

In a modified radical mastectomy procedure the surgeon removes the whole breast together with the nipple and some of the lymph nodes in the armpit.  The chest muscles are left in situ.

After surgery

Reconstructive surgery can be carried out following breast cancer surgery, either immediately or at a later date.  The surgeon creates a normal-looking breast using either the patient’s own tissue from another part of the body or with synthetic breast implants.  If you decide to wait before undergoing reconstructive surgery, there are lots of very flattering and cleverly designed lingerie options to choose from.

Your recovery time and the duration of your stay in hospital are dependent on the kind of surgery you have.  Often, lumpectomies can be carried out on an outpatient basis and you will recover in a short-stay observation unit following surgery.  If you have a mastectomy and lymph node removal surgery, you’ll probably have to stay in hospital for one or two nights before you are allowed home.

In conclusion

Your surgeon and doctor will discuss the options for breast cancer surgery with you, and will try to find the route that will have the best outcome for you.  It’s helpful to write down any questions you have before you attend your pre-surgery consultation so that your doctor can put any fears you have to rest.





Alison Page

About Alison Page

Alison is a small business owner, freelance writer, author and dressage judge. She has degrees in Equine Science and Business Studies. Read her full story at

Alison Page

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