Breast cancer never comes at a convenient time. One day you’re living life as usual. And the next you’re faced with a dozen decisions you have never even considered. One of the most important decisions you will face after receiving a cancer diagnosis is deciding how aggressively you want your cancer treated. Let’s look at choosing lumpectomy or mastectomy.
Choosing Lumpectomy or Mastectomy
Just twenty years ago, the options available to patients now would have been practically unheard of, but the sheer volume of choices can feel absolutely crushing. That is why we have designed this brief guide to highlight some of the broader categorical options available to you. This is not designed to replace professional medical advice. The intent is to merely give you a secondary source of information to help you process your breast tumor treatment options when it all feels like too much. Let’s start simple: what are lumpectomies and mastectomies?
The Primary Difference
A lumpectomy and mastectomy will both remove the cancerous tissue from your breast(s). The difference: a lumpectomy remains designed to preserve as much healthy tissue as possible. Whereas a mastectomy removes the entire breast. The advantage of preserving breast tissue proves self-evident. But a mastectomy can have advantages. By removing the entire breast, you may reduce the chance that your cancer will come back later in life, and it may reduce your need for other cancer treatments.
Your Relationship with Your Body
What people talk about less: the trauma that often comes with these procedures. Regardless of which procedure you choose, there will likely be a visible change to your body that you will need to consider. A lumpectomy may leave your breast a bit dimpled or uneven in comparison to your other breast, but this can be corrected relatively easily. Women with larger breasts may not even be able to tell.
By contrast, a mastectomy can be a major physical and psychological shock. The procedure doesn’t just remove the feminine breast tissue we associate with being women. It removes all of the fatty tissue that provides cushion and shape. Breast augmentation surgery can relieve some of the psychological shock. But it still proves a lot for you and your body to handle. That is why Dr. Miltenburg offers breast conservation surgery in Houston for eligible patients for a lumpectomy with radiation therapy.
As far back as the 1980s, clinical trials have shown very similar survival rates for patients who had mastectomies and those who had lumpectomies with radiation therapy for stage 0 and stage 1 breast cancer. Today, that means patients with stage 0 or stage 1 breast cancer can choose a breast conservation surgery without too much concern.
For a patient with stage 0 cancer a straightforward lumpectomy and radiation are all that are required. Once the treatment has been completed, your doctor will review your scans. They aim to ensure that your margins (the border around where the tumor was removed) prove cancer-free. For a patient with stage 1 cancer, the process is quite similar. The only difference is that your doctor will likely biopsy the lymph nodes in your armpit. This makes sure the cancer has not affected them.
If your cancer proves too advanced or you would rather skip radiation therapy, then you may end up choosing a mastectomy. However, there are variations to this procedure that can make it easier for the patient. Depending on the placement of your tumor, you may be able to choose a skin and nipple-sparing mastectomy.
This procedure will remove as much tissue as possible, while leaving your skin and nipple alone. It may sound odd, but this is ideal if you’re hoping to have a breast augmentation after your treatment. Why? It gives your plastic surgeon all of the right tools to create a more natural-looking breast when you’re ready.