Surgery is usually the first way of treating cancer but can also be used to treat non cancerous conditions.
Surgery for breast cancer usually involves removing part, or sometimes, the entire breast. The type of surgery needed depends on the size and position of the cancer. Surgery to the breast will also involve removal of a few or all of the lymph nodes in the armpit which will then be tested for cancer cells. Each case is individual and the appropriate surgery will be recommended by the surgeon and the options talked through in the presence of the patient and their breast care nurse.
- Lumpectomy (wide local excision): when the cancer and an area of surrounding tissue is removed.
- Mastectomy without reconstruction: removal of all of the breast tissue and the nipple.
- Axillary node clearance (ANC): removal of all of the lymph nodes in the armpit.
- Therapeutic mammoplasty: surgery to remove a breast cancer and reshape / remodel the breast using the remaining breast tissue.
Non cancer surgery
This includes surgery for benign (non cancer) breast disease, symmetrisation procedures following cancer surgery to make both breasts look the same, delayed breast reconstruction and cosmetic breast surgery.
Cosmetic breast surgery is not normally available on the NHS except in special cases such as congenital abnormalities (defects from birth) and following trauma.
- Breast reduction (also known as reduction mammoplasty): surgery to reduce the weight and volume of the breast.
- Breast implant related problems.
- Breast asymmetry: surgery to try and match the two breasts in size as closely as possible. Either the smaller breast is made larger or the larger breast made smaller.
- Lipomodelling: uses the patient’s own fat cells to fill defects in the breast following breast conserving surgery.
- Duct excision (microdochectomy): removal of a breast duct.
- Nipple reconstruction: usually takes place six months or more following breast reconstruction to allow the breast to settle and the nipple to be positioned accurately.
- Nipple tattooing: once a patient has a new nipple shape they can have the nipple and the area around it tattooed to match the colour of the nipple and areola of their natural breast.
- Abscesses: surgery is usually required to drain large, deep breast abscesses.
- Benign breast lumps: surgery to remove non cancerous lumps from the breast.
- Gynaecomastia: surgery to remove the excess breast tissue.
Attending for surgery and after care
All women attending for breast surgery will be admitted onto a specialist 15 bedded breast ward. All men will be admitted to a male surgical ward. We are committed to providing high quality treatment and care in a friendly environment. The majority of wide local excisions are now carried out as day cases so there is no need for an overnight stay.
For mastectomy patients, surgery requires one overnight stay, however we are moving towards all mastectomies becoming day case surgery by December 2013. Some patients may require drains to be left in place but this will not delay your discharge home. Drains can be managed by the district nursing team who will refer you back to the unit if you have any problems. All patients who have received surgery will be seen in the Breast Unit approximately seven days later for their results and to assess and redress their wound. If any problems occur before this date, patients are encouraged to contact the unit and arrange an appointment to attend the nurse-led dressing clinic.