How breast cancer is treated?
The treatment of breast cancer involves a multi-disciplinary team approach. Members of this team are specialists in the surgery, pathology, drug treatment (chemotherapy) and x-ray treatment (radiotherapy) of breast cancer.
Surgery for breast cancer
There are two main types of operation:
Breast Conserving Surgery (often referred to as a Wide Local Excision or Lumpectomy): This is the removal of the tumour with a small margin of normal healthy tissue. The aim is to keep as much of your breast as possible while ensuring the cancer has been completely removed.
The breast tissue removed during surgery will be tested to check the margin around the cancer. If there are cancer cells at the edges of the margin, you may need further surgery to remove more tissue.
Mastectomy: A simple mastectomy is the removal of all breast tissue including the skin and nipple area.
A mastectomy may be recommended when:
- The cancer takes up a large are of the breast
- There's more than one area of cancer in the breast
Long term survival is the same for breast-conserving surgery followed by radiotherapy as for a mastectomy.
Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy
Sentinel lymph node biopsy is used for axillary sampling. It identifies whether or not the first, or sentinel lymph node (or nodes) is clear of cancer cells.
A sentinel lymph node biopsy is usually carried out at the same time as your cancer surgery. A small amount of radioactive material (radioisotope) and a blue dye is injected into the area around the cancer to identify the sentinel lymph node(s). Once removed, the sentinel node(s) are examined under a microscope to see if it contains any cancer cells.
If the sentinel mode does not contain cancer cells, this usually means the other nodes are clear too, so no more will need to be removed.
If the results show that there are cancer cells in the sentinel node(s) you may be recommended to have further surgery to remove some or all of the remaining nodes (axillary clearance), or radiotherapy to the underarm.
Please follow this link to The Breast Cancer Now Charity for more information on Surgery for Breast Cancer.