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Breast Cancer Surgery

Surgery plays an important role in the treatment of breast cancer. At the Abramson Cancer Center, our surgical oncologists and plastic surgeons collaborate to create a personalized surgical plan that considers your wishes and diagnosis. Our goal is to treat breast cancer effectively with cosmetic outcomes that leave you feeling comfortable and confident.

Breast Cancer Surgery: Why Choose the Abramson Cancer Center?

We combine compassionate care with comprehensive clinical expertise to treat breast cancer. Our breast surgeons work as part of a multidisciplinary team to personalize breast cancer treatment. The benefits of breast cancer surgery at the Abramson Cancer Center include:

  • Comprehensive surgical care: Our breast surgeons are experts devoted to treating breast cancer. We also treat high-risk patients and those with benign breast issues.
  • Precise surgical techniques: We use advanced imaging and radar localization technology (SAVI SCOUT®) to accurately locate tumors during breast conserving surgery. This approach minimizes recovery and the amount of healthy tissue removed.
  • Expert breast reconstruction: Our specialized plastic surgeons perform both implant-based and free flap breast reconstruction — a complex procedure using a women’s own tissue to restore a breast’s appearance. We perform the highest volume of free flap reconstruction in the nation and deliver superior aesthetic results with few complications.
  • Dedicated support: Our oncology-trained nurse navigators support you before surgery to coordinate your care and answer any questions. The surgical team educates you and your family about surgery and recovery. After surgery, our breast cancer support services provide a wide range of amenities and non-medical assistance.

Treating Breast Cancer With Surgery

We use surgery to understand, prevent and eliminate breast cancer. Our surgeons tailor every breast procedure and use the newest surgical techniques to reduce scarring and recovery time.

Surgery we use to treat breast cancer includes:


Our surgeons may recommend a lumpectomy for early stage breast cancer or as a preventative measure. This procedure involves removing abnormal tissue and a small area of surrounding healthy tissue. The tissue is analyzed by a specialized breast cancer pathologist.

We offer different types of lumpectomies. If breast reconstruction is required to restore the appearance of your breasts, our breast surgeons and plastic surgeons work together. Learn more about lumpectomy at Penn Medicine.


Patients with advanced cancer or a high risk of breast cancer may require or choose to have a mastectomy. During this surgery, we remove all the tissue from one or both breasts.

Our surgeons perform mastectomies both with and without breast reconstruction. Whenever possible, we conserve the skin, areola and nipple to assist with reconstruction. Learn more about how we treat cancer with mastectomy.

Sentinel Lymph Node Excision

We may conduct a sentinel lymph node excision to see whether breast cancer has spread beyond the breast. This procedure is performed during breast cancer surgery and involves the removal of one or a few specific lymph nodes. We remove the first lymph node(s) (sentinel lymph nodes) where the cancer cells are most likely to spread.

To identify the sentinel lymph nodes, the surgeon injects dye and/or a radioactive tracer into the area of the tumor. These dyes and tracers travel from the tumor to the lymph nodes. We remove and biopsy lymph nodes stained by the dye and that have a high signal count from the tracer.

Breast Reconstruction

To restore the appearance of your breasts after breast cancer surgery, our expert plastic surgeons perform breast reconstruction. We can reconstruct your breast either during breast cancer surgery (immediate) or at a later time (delayed). Our surgeons use breast implants or your own tissue (often taken from the lower abdomen) to restore the appearance of your breasts.

Our plastic surgeons specialize in the breast and work closely with breast surgeons to accomplish reconstruction with the least amount of surgery possible. Before breast cancer surgery, we’ll present reconstruction options and help you decide whether it’s the right choice for you. Learn more about breast reconstruction.

Andy’s Story: Breast Cancer Surgery and Beyond

Even after finding multiple lumps in her breast, Andy never thought she could have breast cancer. When scans and biopsies indicated early stage breast cancer, she turned to the Abramson Cancer Center for treatment and decided to have a double mastectomy. During surgery, Andy’s surgeon removed lymph nodes and discovered that her cancer had spread to distant areas of her body. Today, Andy manages her metastatic breast cancer with regular treatment at Penn. Though her diagnosis was unexpected, she’s grateful her surgeons identified the spread of cancer sooner rather than later. Read Andy’s story.