We send the breast lump and lymph nodes to the laboratory. It takes about a week to prepare the tissue, examine it under the microscope and prepare a report.
The operation will make clear what is happening to the tissue in your breast. If there is breast cancer, the operation should start you on the path towards the best treatment for it. The swelling or problem area will no longer be in your breast. The tissue that we remove will help us to plan your future treatment. For most patients, no more surgery is needed. The breast is still there, which would not be the case after a mastectomy.
If there is in-situ cancer, or premalignant change, any further steps can be planned with certainty.
Are there any alternatives?
If you definitely have an invasive breast cancer, having the whole breast removed in a mastectomy is an alternative to a wide excision. This needs serious thought and discussion with your breast specialist and breast nurses. You would have the same life expectations, but with a smaller chance of the disease coming back in the same area. You would lose the breast, but for some this is not a major factor. You would avoid radiotherapy to the breast.
There are good ways of rebuilding the breast following a mastectomy. Sometimes a small breast may become very deformed by a wide excision and can be difficult to rebuild. You need to spend some time with the breast specialist and the breast nurses discussing this whole matter. There is no rush to decide.
Radiotherapy on its own, without surgery, would not be as good in your case. Neither would drug treatment on its own. The same applies to alternative therapies, such as aromatherapy and reflexology.
What if you do nothing?
If you do nothing, your breast problem will get steadily worse. You could lose out on important treatment. It is not a good idea to start any treatment, if it is not clear what is wrong.
Author: Mr Michael Edwards FRCSEng FRCSEd. Consultant general surgeon.
© Dumas Ltd 2006