The first treatment for breast cancer is usually surgery. The different choices include:
Breast Preserving Operation
With this treatment, the breast is preserved. A segmental mastectomy (also known as a lumpectomy) is performed in which the abnormal tissue in the breast and some of the surrounding tissue is removed. Usually, some of the lymph nodes from under the arm are also taken out.
Radiation therapy to the remaining breast tissue follows this surgery. It is given by the radiation oncologist Monday through Friday daily for 6-7 weeks.
Total or simple mastectomy involves removal of the whole breast. Sometimes lymph nodes in the armpit area are also taken out.
Modified radical mastectomy involves removal of the whole breast, some of the lymph nodes in the armpit area, and sometimes part of the chest wall muscles. A larger amount of tissue is usually removed during a modified radical mastectomy than in a total or simple mastectomy.
After a mastectomy, some women decide to wear a breast form (prosthesis). Others prefer to have breast reconstruction (making a new breast), either at the same time as the mastectomy or later on. Each option has advantages and disadvantages, and what is right for one woman may not be right for another. What is important is that most women treated for breast cancer have choices. It is best to consult with a plastic surgeon before the mastectomy, even if reconstruction will not be immediate.
Reach to Recovery
Reach to Recovery is an American Cancer Society program where women previously treated for breast cancer are matched up with newly diagnosed patients. If a Reach to Recovery volunteer has not yet visited with you, please let your physician and/or their care coordinator know.
For more information, see Understanding Breast Cancer Treatment: A Guide to Patients