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Types of breast surgery

If you would like to know about breast surgery, and the uses and benefits of breast surgery, you will find the following information of interest.


The majority of patients who are diagnosed with breast cancer will have breast surgery as the primary treatment. The most common types of breast operation carried out for treatment of breast cancer are:


Wide local excision /lumpectomy

This type of breast surgery involves removing the breast lump (tumour) and a clear margin of normal tissue from around the lump. It is important that the margin of tissue around the tumour has clear healthy cells. This breast surgery is usually followed by a course of radiotherapy and is referred to as "breast conserving therapy".


Quantrantectomy/Segmental excision

This type of breast surgery is necessary when the area which needs to be removed is larger. A margin of clear healthy tissue is required to ensure complete removal of the tumour.



This breast surgery involves the removal of the whole breast resulting in a horizontal scar across the chest. There are several reasons a mastectomy breast operation is necessary:

  • The breast lump is too large to preserve the breast.

  • The tumour is situated behind the nipple.

  • There are several tumours throughout the breast.

  • Clear margins are not achieved following a wide local excision.


For most women breast reconstruction surgery is suitable and this can be achieved at the time of breast surgery or at a later date.


Lymph node/axillary surgery

In most cases it is important to look at the lymph glands under the armpit at the time of breast surgery. This gives important information about the spread of the disease and what treatment options will be considered in the next phase of treatment. There are approximately 20 lymph nodes under the arm. There are two procedures used to look at the lymph glands:

  • Axillary Lymph Node Dissection in which most of the glands under the armpit are removed.

  • Sentinel Lymph -Node Biopsy, a new technique which uses a small amount of a radioactive substance given by injection several hours before breast surgery. This approach identifies the first lymph node into which the tumour drains. This node is  called the sentinel node and is then removed  by the surgeon  for the pathologist to examine. If the sentinel node is clear it will not be necessary to remove all the nodes during surgery. This procedure has been shown to have fewer complications resulting in less arm stiffness and swelling.


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Cosmetic breast surgery

Read our helpful guide to cosmetic surgery sponsored by BMI Cosmetic Surgery. We also have a useful checklist of questions to ask your surgeon, at your initial consultation.

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