Surgical advances play a key role in improving the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer.
Breast cancer surgery was once a one-step procedure. If a biopsy revealed cancer, the breast was removed. Often a woman would awaken from surgery not knowing if she had cancer or her breast.
Today, newer procedures provide options tailored to improve outcomes, ease recovery and decrease the risk of complications. Women have time to make decisions about their care, seek second opinions and receive counseling.
“The involvement of women in the early detection of their breast cancer, with regular self breast examinations and annual mammography, is the most significant step in curing breast cancer,” according to Fairfield Surgeon J. Peter Zopfi, D.O.
While the initial treatment for breast cancer is often still surgery, patients have several surgical options, depending on the size, grade and location of the tumor. The goal of any cancer surgery is to remove the tumor to prevent a recurrence and spread to other parts of the body.
A patient with a suspicious breast lump, or abnormal mammogram, is first referred to a surgeon for a consultation. The initial diagnostic procedure is usually a needle biopsy. These can be performed in the physician’s office with ultrasound guidance or with stereotactic localization (computer guidance). An analysis of the tissue sample provides a diagnosis and a treatment plan is made, based on the biopsy results.
If breast cancer is caught at an early stage, breast conserving surgery, followed by radiation therapy, is an available option. Also called a lump-ectomy, or partial mastectomy, breast conserving surgery is the surgical removal of only the cancerous tumor plus a clean margin around it. This treatment helps to maintain a normal breast appearance following surgery.
If breast cancer is more advanced, the patient may undergo a modified radial mastectomy, which is the surgical removal of the entire breast, along with the nipple, and samples of lymph nodes in the armpit. After surgery, a course of radiation and/or chemotherapy may be recommended, depending on the type of surgery, location of the tumor and stage of the cancer.