What are Types of Breast Cancer Surgery?

Surgical options for breast cancer

Only you and your physician can decide what type of breast surgery is best to treat your cancer.

Breast-conserving surgery removes only the part of the breast affected by cancer and a surrounding margin of normal tissue. How much tissue is removed depends on the size and location of the tumor and other factors. Partial mastectomy, quadrantectomy, and lumpectomy are all types of breast-conserving surgery.

A mastectomy involves removing all of the breast tissue, sometimes along with other nearby tissues. In a simple or total mastectomy, the surgeon removes the entire breast, including the nipple, but does not remove underarm lymph nodes or muscle tissue from beneath the breast.

A radical mastectomy is an extensive operation where the surgeon removes the entire breast, axillary lymph nodes, and the pectoral (chest wall) muscles under the breast. This surgery was once very common, but a modified radical mastectomy has proven to be just as effective without the disfigurement and side effects of a radical mastectomy. Radical mastectomy may still be done for large tumors that are growing into the pectoral muscles under the breast.

Breast reconstruction may be an option at the time of a lumpectomy or mastectomy, or after surgery to treat breast cancer.

Penn Medicine's Abramson Cancer Center is leading the way in breakthrough cancer treatment. If you or someone you know has been touched by cancer, the power to find the Cure is Within.

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The Focus on Cancer blog discusses a variety of cancer-related topics, including treatment advances, research efforts and clinical trials, nutrition, support groups, survivorship and patient stories.

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