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Read about how other women decided what choice to make and the results of mastectomy and breast conserving treatment


Access research etc on surgical management of breast cancer


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I have been diagnosed

You have just been diagnosed with cancer. You will need to decide which operation you will have. You may be in shock at the diagnosis. This section aims to give you more information to help you make your decision. Your choices will include:

  • Just removing the lump plus some tissue around it (to check for spread). Some surgeons will prefer to take a wide excision (partial mastectomy) so they can better establish whether the cancer has spread to the tissue around the lump
  • Breast conserving treatment (also known as a partial mastectomy, lumpectomy, segmentectomy, segmental mastectomy or wide excision). This will normally require radiation therapy to the remaining breast tissue.
  • Mastectomy- removal of the whole breast. The chest muscles behind the breast are not removed. Radiation therapy will not normally be needed.
  • Bilateral mastectomy- some women choose to have both breasts removed
  • Removal of all lymph nodes or only the sentinel node (may not always be an option). this is done in conjunction with your operation.

The best surgical treatment for you will depend on a number of things. Every women is different and what is best for one woman will not be suitable for another. You and your surgeon should discuss all of the issues and come to a decision together about the best treatment for you. The stories you can access from this page and from the mastectomy and breast conserving treatment pages will help you understand how and why other women made their decisions. Use this link to see the considerations in making the decision.

Key points

  • Generally you have time - you don't need to rush your decision (It has been estimated that a 1-centimetre tumour may have been present for at least 7 years since it was a single cancer cell). You will be told if this is not the case and more urgent treatment is required.
  • You do however have the right to rapid referrall and treatment when cancer is diagnosed and should insist on this if concerned.
  • It is your choice whether you decide to have a mastectomy, rather than breast conserving treatment, based on what is important to you
  • The surgeon will recommend one or more options. It is important to understand why he is recommending these in making your decision
  • Consider the sentinel node test to avoid lymphoedema if this is available
  • Decide what is most important to you - (life, lifestyle, convenience, appearance?)
  • Breast conserving treatment, where recommended has as good a survival rate as mastectomy.
  • Make sure you understand the risks and side effects of breast surgery and how best to manage these
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