Surgery for Breast Cancer

Operations to treat breast cancer may include the following:

Breast-conserving surgery

This approach removes the cancer while leaving as much breast tissue as possible intact.  This includes lumpectomy (removal of the lump with some surrounding tissue at the margin of the tumor), quadrantectomy (removal of one quarter, or quadrant, of the breast), and segmental mastectomy (removal of the cancer as well as some of the breast tissue around the tumor and the lining over the chest muscles below the tumor).

Modified radical mastectomy

In this operation, the surgeon removes the breast, most or all of the lymph nodes under the arm, and the lining over the chest muscles.  In some cases, part of the chest wall muscles will be removed as well.  This may be followed by reconstructive surgery to reshape the breast.

Total mastectomy

This surgery, also called simple mastectomy, removes the entire breast.

Lymph node removal

Following surgery, the patient’s lymph nodes may be removed and a sample of tissue taken, to check if the cancer has spread. In what is called a regional lymph node dissection, some of the lymph nodes in the tumor area are removed. In a radical lymph node dissection, most or all of the lymph nodes in the tumor area are removed. This procedure is also called a lymphadenectomy.

A common side-effect of breast cancer surgery is lymphedema, swelling in the arms, hands, fingers, shoulders or chest, caused by fluid retention in the body.   Columbia surgeons have developed innovative protocols to prevent lymphedema following surgery for breast cancer.

Oncoplastic Breast Surgery

Surgeons at the Columbia’s Clinical Breast Cancer Program are fully versed in Oncoplastic Surgical techniques, which provide excellent cosmetic results while maintaining sound oncologic principles (effective removal of cancerous tissue) following major resection of breast cancers.