April 14, 2024


Your doctor decides on the best breast cancer treatment depending on the type, stage, and extent of the disease. The size and hormone sensitivity of the cancer cells also matter, and your general health and personal preferences also come into play.

Most women with breast cancer have surgery and may also get additional treatments like radiation, hormone therapy, or chemotherapy after the procedure. In some circumstances, chemotherapy may be administered as preoperative treatment.

In this guide, we discuss the available breast cancer surgery options.


A lumpectomy, also known as breast-conserving surgery or wide local excision, involves the surgeon removing the tumor and a small layer of healthy tissue from the surrounding area.

Lumpectomy is also the preferred breast cancer treatment option for smaller tumors. Some patients with larger tumors may receive chemotherapy before surgery to reduce a tumor’s size and enable total removal using a lumpectomy technique.


An operation called a mastectomy is used to remove all of the breast tissue. Most mastectomy surgeries involve the removal of the entire breast, including the lobules, ducts, fatty tissue, and some skin, including the areola and nipple (total or simple mastectomy).

In certain situations, more modern surgical methods could be an option to enhance the breast’s appearance. Many breast cancer patients have skin-sparing and nipple-sparing mastectomy procedures.

Sentinel node biopsy

The lymph nodes are some of the most sensitive parts of a spreading tumor. Your surgeon will review the importance of removing the lymph nodes that are first to receive lymph drainage from your tumor to identify whether cancer has spread to those nodes.

Often, and occasionally before the procedure to remove the primary tumor from your breast, your surgeon will take a sentinel node biopsy. The sentinel node is removed, and its cells are examined for cancer. No additional nodes need removal if there is no evidence of cancer in those lymph nodes because it is unlikely that cancer will be identified in any remaining nodes.

Axillary lymph node dissection

Your surgeon will review the risks of removing extra lymph nodes from your armpit with you if they detect cancer in the sentinel lymph nodes.

Your surgeon removes a pad of fatty tissue housing a collection of axillary lymph nodes during an axillary lymph node dissection. To look for malignancy, they will carefully examine the tissue.

Removing both breasts

A contralateral preventive mastectomy may be an option for some women with cancer in one breast if they have a very high chance of developing cancer in the other breast due to a genetic predisposition or a significant family history.

Most women diagnosed with breast cancer in one breast never get the disease in the second breast. You should review the pros and cons of this surgery and your risk for breast cancer with your doctor.


Following breast cancer surgery, you could opt for breast reconstruction. You can have the two procedures simultaneously or after breast cancer surgery. Talk to your surgeon about your choices and preferences.