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Patient Guide for Breast Surgery

Breast Surgical Services

If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, your team of doctors will recommend an individualized treatment plan that will work best for you. Most treatment strategies usually begin with surgery.

While the thought of any type of surgery can create feelings of anxiety, keep in mind that tremendous advances in breast cancer surgery have been made in recent years. These advances are enabling women to preserve much of the healthy breast and surrounding areas. Consequently, you may be able to choose which type of breast surgery to have: breast-sparing surgery that removes the cancer and leaves as much of the breast as possible, or surgery that removes the entire breast called a mastectomy. Your options are usually determined by the size, location and type of breast cancer you have, and you will certainly be discussing these factors with your surgeon.

Morton Plant Mease provides the following surgical services for women with breast cancer:

 Breast Biopsy Options: Ultrasound-guided and Stereotactic

A breast biopsy is the surgical removal of cells or tissue from a suspicious mass. It is the only way to determine if the mass is cancerous or benign. Biopsy options include fine needle aspiration to remove a tiny sample of cells from a breast lump or core biopsy to remove a sample of actual breast tissue. At Morton Plant Mease, we perform both ultrasound-guided biopsies, as well as stereotactic biopsies. In addition, we offer one of the newest biopsy methods performed today, sentinel lymph node biopsy.

A New Standard of Care: Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy

Sentinel lymph node (SLN) biopsy is an outpatient procedure considered by many to be the new standard of care in determining the stage of breast cancer. In the past when it came to invasive breast cancer, doctors would typically remove as many of the under arm, or axillary, lymph nodes as possible to determine the extent to which the cancer had spread. This approach required extensive surgery and sometimes led to complications including lymphedema (fluid buildup in the arm), infection and numbness.

But that no longer needs to be the case.

The sentinel lymph nodes are the first few lymph nodes to which cancer is likely to spread from a primary tumor. If the biopsy is done and the sentinel nodes do not contain cancer cells, the rest of the regional lymph nodes may not need to be removed — and removing fewer lymph nodes means fewer side effects for the patient. In addition, the presence or absence of cancer in the lymph nodes of the armpit is important in determining future treatment.

How SLN biopsy is done:

  • To identify the sentinel lymph nodes, the surgeon injects a radioactive solution or a blue, harmless dye into the tumor area or underneath the nipple.
  • The lymphatic system takes the dye or solution to the lymph nodes.
  • The surgeon uses a gamma probe to find the first nodes that pick up the solution, which are the sentinel nodes.
  • A small incision is made beneath the arm, and the sentinel nodes are removed and checked for cancer cells.
  • If the nodes are cancer-free, no additional nodes are removed.
  • If cancer is present, sometimes all the lymph nodes are removed. 

Sentinel lymph node biopsy is part of our commitment at Morton Plant Mease to bringing leading edge medical techniques close to home for the women in our community.

Breast-Conserving Surgery: Lumpectomy (Partial Mastectomy)

A lumpectomy, or partial mastectomy, is surgery to remove the cancerous tumor as well as a small amount of the surrounding normal tissue. It is called breast conservation surgery because it aims to preserve a normal breast appearance.

While there are a number of reasons why a woman may not be eligible for a partial mastectomy, women who have small, early-stage cancers are usually excellent candidates for this treatment option.

Breast-Removing Surgery: Mastectomy

A mastectomy is the surgical removal of the breast. There are several different forms of mastectomies including:

  • Simple or total mastectomy where just the breast is removed
  • Modified radical mastectomy where the breast and lymph nodes under the arm are removed
  • Radical mastectomy where the breast, chest wall muscle and axillary lymph nodes are removed. This type of surgery is rarely done today.

If a patient is going to have a mastectomy, breast reconstruction (surgery to rebuild a breast's shape after a mastectomy) may be considered. This is done through a skin-sparing mastectomy which leaves extra skin to accommodate the reconstructed breast. Breast reconstruction may be done at the time of the mastectomy or at a future time. The reconstructed breast may be made with the patient's own (non-breast) tissue or by using implants filled with saline or silicone gel.

For a referral to one of our surgeons, please visit our online physician finder or call the BayCare Customer Service Center at (727) 462-7500. Learn more about breast surgery by reviewing our patient guide for breast surgery.