Contributed by: Abshar Faheem
Surgery is the treatment of breast cancer that includes the removal of cancer with an operation. Surgery is the most common type of breast cancer treatment, and in recent years, surgeons have introduced new methods to make the operations more reliable and less invasive. Medical treatments have become advanced and now people have various options to choose the best treatment method. These include breast-conservation surgery, mastectomy, and mastectomy with breast reconstruction. These treatment options enable you to decide and plan the best treatment as per your breasts’ size and stage of breast cancer, preferences, goals, lifestyle habits as well as the severity of the diagnosis.
The main purpose of breast cancer surgery is to remove the cancer cells present in your breast. Though it is a safe procedure but it can cause various complications including infection, bleeding, pain, permanent scarring, loss of altered sensation in the chest and reconstructed breasts, wound healing problems, and arm swelling. Surgery can be used both for the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. If the affected area appears on a mammogram or an ultrasound, surgeons take the assistance of a needle to get a sample of the spot.
Such a method is known as a biopsy. Through this, the doctor can confirm whether the annoying lump, a spot on your mammogram, or a change in your breast is cancer or not. Based on the diagnosis, the physician can decide the best surgery as per your personal preferences and diagnosis. Several people decide the following surgeries:
Breast Cancer Surgery (BCS)
BCS aims to remove the tumor and a few healthy tissues known as the margin. The margin is then examined to check if the whole tumor has been removed or if the cancer cells are yet to be taken out. The quantity of breast tissue expelled depends on the extent of the lump, its place, and the progression of cancer, among other factors. Whenever it is possible, surgeons decide to do BCS as long as everything around the tumor is healthy tissue because it protects the breast. The healing period for BCS is also the quickest. It can be executed as an outpatient procedure. It means you will not have to spend the night in the hospital.
Eventually, you will be able to continue your daily activities when you feel fit and fine. Many women who opt for BCS might also require radiation, a kind of therapy that destroys remaining cancer cells. Radiation is a very local treatment, conducted for only the section of your breast that has been attacked by cancer cells.
Each person responds differently, but radiation therapy may lead to side effects like fatigue and skin inflammation. Radiation can also lead to long-term alterations in the size, coloration, holes, sensitivity, and thickness of breasts.
A mastectomy includes the removal of the entire breast including nipples. It depends on to what extent cancer has spread, few structures around it including chest muscles and lymph nodes might be removed too. This type of surgery may require you to stay in the hospital, and it might take a few weeks to resume your daily activities. You may have to undergo a mastectomy rather than BCS if, your tumor is big enough or there is not a transparent margin nearby, multiple tumors, when you don’t want or can’t have radiation therapy, you have previous BCS in the particular breast, but breast cancer has come back again, you have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, or when you are at high risk for a relapse.
Eventually, the selection between BCS and a mastectomy is extremely personal. If you want your breast cancer treatment with BCS, there is a little chance that cancer will come back in that area again. If it happens, you might require mastectomy surgery.
Mastectomy with reconstruction
You might prefer to get breast reconstruction surgery performed along with mastectomy. Mastectomy with reconstruction can reconstruct the shape and function of the breast. Also, if you wait before experiencing reconstruction, it is still necessary to discuss with both a general surgeon and a plastic surgeon before your mastectomy surgery. There are various kinds of breast reconstructions, so they can assist you to decide the best way for you.
The bottom line
When you decide on breast cancer surgery, you might think of a feeling of urgency regarding eliminating cancer as soon as possible. But you should take the time to
- Investigate your available choices. Take handouts from your nurse. When you read it, create a list of queries for your surgeon, and also write down notes while discussing with them.
- Connect with a plastic surgeon and involve him in your treatment.
- Talk about your treatment method with your dear ones.
- Identify your family history or if anyone has had cancer in your family.