Surgery is one of the most common types of treatment for breast cancer, and your surgeon at Edith Sanford Breast Center will make sure you know your options, the benefits and risks of each, answer any questions and help you decide which option is right for you.

Your first meeting with your breast surgeon will last about an hour. During this time, your surgeon will get to know you, your story and your preferences for treatment. You will also discuss your options for surgery, which may include either a lumpectomy or a mastectomy.

A lumpectomy will remove just a small portion of the breast that includes the area where the tumor is located. Usually women who have a lumpectomy will require radiation therapy to kill off any remaining cancer cells in the breast. This can generally be an outpatient surgery.

Many women who have breast surgery also choose to have breast reconstruction.

A lot can factor into whether a lumpectomy or mastectomy is right for you. Some factors include:

  • The size, location and stage of the tumor
  • The size of your breast
  • Certain features of the cancer
  • How you feel about how surgery will change your breast
  • How you feel about radiation therapy
  • Your ability to travel to a radiation treatment center for daily treatment sessions

Surgery causes pain and tenderness, and the skin where your breast was removed may feel tight. Your arm and shoulder muscles may feel stiff and weak, and your neck and back may hurt. Medicine can help control your pain. Exercise can also reduce stiffness and pain.

And because nerves may be injured or cut during surgery, you may have numbness and tingling in your chest, underarm, shoulder or upper arm. These feelings may go away within a few weeks or months.

At Edith Sanford Breast Center, our surgeons take part in a regular tumor board with all other areas of our multidisciplinary care team. Together, our experts examine all new cancer cases and discuss each one to ensure no stone has gone unturned when it comes to your care.

Questions you may want to ask your doctor about surgery

  • What kinds of surgery can I consider?

  • Is a lumpectomy an option for me?

  • Is a skin-sparing mastectomy an option?

  • Which operation do you recommend for me? Why?

  • Will any lymph nodes be removed? How many? Why?

  • How will I feel after the operation? Will I have to stay in the hospital?

  • What are the risks of surgery?

  • How many surgeries for breast cancer have you done?

  • Will I need to learn how to take care of myself or my incision when I get home?

  • Where will the scars be? What will they look like?

  • If I decide to have plastic surgery to rebuild my breast, how and when can that be done? Can you suggest a plastic surgeon for me to contact?

  • Will I have to do special exercises to help regain motion and strength in my arm and shoulder? Will a physical therapist or nurse show me how to do the exercises?

Breast Reconstruction

For many women, breast reconstruction can be done at the same time as the lumpectomy or mastectomy. Your plastic surgeon and breast surgeon will work closely with one another to coordinate the surgery and your recovery.

The type of reconstruction best for you depends on your age, body type and the type of cancer surgery that you had. Your plastic surgeon can help you decide and answer any questions you may have.

After a mastectomy, a surgeon can reconstruct the breast in many ways. Some women choose to have breast implants, which are filled with saline or silicone gel. You can read about breast implants on the Food and Drug Administration’s website at

Another method of breast reconstruction is to create a breast form, which is a device that replaces the breast. Or some women opt for wearing padding inside their bras or some do nothing at all. All of these options have pros and cons. What is right for one woman may not be right for another.

After a lumpectomy, a woman may have a dent or bulge where the tissue was removed. She can elect to undergo surgery to reshape the breast by using skin, muscle, and fat from your lower abdomen, back or buttocks. Some doctors may suggest waiting until after radiation therapy is complete before having breast reconstruction, but that is something you and your surgeon can discuss together.

Questions you may want to ask your doctor about breast reconstruction

  • Which type of surgery would give me the best results? How will I look afterward?

  • When can my reconstruction begin?

  • How many surgeries will I need?

  • What are the risks at the time of surgery? Later?

  • Will I have scars? Where? What will they look like?

  • If tissue from another part of my body is used, will there be any permanent changes where the tissue was removed?

  • What activities should I avoid after surgery? When can I return to my normal activities?

  • Will I need follow-up care?

  • How much will reconstruction cost? Will my health insurance pay for it?