Breast Cancer Surgery
If your doctor has recommended surgery as a part of your care plan, you might want more information about the process. Use this page as a resource to learn more about breast cancer surgical care.
Our comprehensive care program includes nutrition services and alternative therapy, as well as minimally invasive surgery and chemotherapy.
Your care options depend on a number of things, including:
- Menopausal status
- General health
- Size of your breast
- Size and place of the tumor
- Stage of the cancer, based on tumor size and whether the cancer has spread
- Certain characteristics of the tumor, such as whether it depends on hormones to grow
Common Questions Before Surgery
Preparing for a surgical procedure can be scary and confusing. Notifying your doctor of any questions or concerns you may have is a great way to help clear the clutter. Find common questions to get you started below.
- What kinds of surgery can I consider?
- Is breast-sparing surgery an option?
- Which operation do you recommend for me?
- Do I need my lymph nodes removed? How many? Why? What special precautions will I need to take if my lymph nodes are removed?
- What are the risks of surgery?
- How will I feel after the operation?
- Will I need to learn how to do special things to take care of myself or my wound when I get home?
- Where will my scars be? What will they look like?
What to Do Before Surgery
Use these recommendations as a tool to help you prepare for your surgical procedure here at Cedars-Sinai.
Do not eat or drink anything after midnight on the night before your procedure.
You may be advised to stop taking certain medications that might increase the risk of bleeding during surgery (such as aspirin, ibuprofen, Coumadin, Plavix, and so on). You will be given specific instructions.
If you have special needs, please ask your doctor.
You must arrange to have someone drive you home after your procedure.
You may need to have a blood test, EKG or other testing done several days before your procedure.
You may need to see your internist or cardiologist for a pre-surgery checkup.
What to Do on the Day of Surgery
Do not wear makeup, nail polish, jewelry or contact lenses.
Please leave your valuables at home.
Bring your insurance card and a valid form of identification to register.
Wear loose, comfortable clothing that is easy to change. Wear comfortable shoes or slippers.
Do not eat or drink anything.
You may shower and brush your teeth in the morning, but try not to swallow any water.
There are potential risks or concerns that you or your caregiver should be mindful to watch out for.
After a lumpectomy or mastectomy, you may experience common problems, including:
- Decreased ability to move the arm due to pain or tightness
- Mild weakness due to discomfort
- Swelling of the lower arm, or lymphedema, that sometimes happens after surgery to remove the lymph nodes; early treatment of this swelling will help reduce the amount of therapy you need and limit your discomfort and disruption of your daily life
In addition to these physical risks, cancer can return or spread after surgery. This can happen soon after surgery or years later. When treating breast cancer, your doctor will try to estimate the risk of cancer returning and use this information to determine how much treatment to recommend. Your doctor’s estimate is based on:
- Whether the cancer has spread to your lymph nodes
- The size of your cancer
- How aggressive the cancer looks under the microscope
- Whether the cancer has certain receptors on its surface that are present on normal breast cells
- Although these criteria have been used to predict outcome for decades, there are newer tests — available for certain cancers — that are much more accurate. These newer tests evaluate the genetic abnormalities in your cancer (which is not the same as testing your genes).
- Surgery and radiation therapy are designed to lower the risk of local recurrence (keeping the cancer from coming back in the breast). Chemotherapy and hormone therapy can be used to keep the cancer from spreading elsewhere in your body. They can be extremely effective. But they are not helpful in all patients, so we use them selectively. Using chemotherapy or hormone therapy after surgery is called adjuvant therapy.
To aid in your recovery after surgery, you might want to consider physical therapy.
Breast reconstruction (surgery to rebuild the shape of a breast) is often an option after mastectomy. Results from plastic surgery are better if a plastic surgeon is involved at the start of treatment.
Goals of Breast Reconstruction
Your overall goals of breast reconstruction may include:
A positive self-image
A sense of wellbeing
You and your plastic surgeon should identify the size and shape of the breast you want. Things to think over:
What are your specific desires for breast shape and size?
Are you comfortable with many procedures to reach your preferred result, or do you prefer a simple and short route?
The Uninvolved Breast
In most cases, only one breast is affected by cancer. The unaffected breast is vital because:
It is the template for the reconstructed breast
It may need to be removed as a preventive form of treatment (prophylactic mastectomy)
One goal of breast plastic surgery is symmetry. You should talk about the pros and cons of prophylactic mastectomy with your care team.