CancerCare Manitoba
Surgery Choices & Treatment Decisions

Download the booklet "It Helps to Talk" published by Health Canada (108 KB)

There are several types of surgery that may be used to treat breast cancer. The right surgery for you will depend on a number of these factors:

  • the type of cancer
  • the size and number of tumors
  • where it is in the breast
  • the size of the breast
  • your preference
  • your surgeons preference

Surgery Choices

The types of surgery commonly used today are:

  • Lumpectomy - a procedure that removes only the part of the breast containing the cancer with a small amount of normal tissue around it.
  • Simple Mastectomy - a procedure that removes all of the breast tissue and the nipple
  • Modified Radical Mastectomy - a procedure that removes all of the breast tissue, the nipple and some of the lymph nodes under the arm (axillary nodes)
  • Axillary Node Dissection - a procedure that removes some of the lymph nodes under the arm to determine if they contain breast cancer cells
  • Sentinel Node Biopsy - a procedure which identifies the first few lymph nodes that pick up lymph fluid from the tumor area. A radioactive substance and/or dye are injected into the tumor area and then traced to the nodes. The nodes with the highest concentration of the dye are removed and then checked to see if they contain breast cancer cells. These are called the sentinel nodes.
  • Wire Localization - is a procedure used before surgery to mark an area of calcifications or a lump that cannot be felt. Following a mammogram, a wire is inserted through a needle into the breast tissue beside the area to be removed. Another mammogram follows to ensure the wire is close to the area. The surgeon uses this to guide them during surgery.
  • Breast Reconstruction - a variety of techniques are used by a plastic surgeon to recreate the breast mound following a mastectomy. Tissue may be used from another area of your body or an implant may be used. This may be done immediately following a mastectomy or many years later.

Talk to your surgeon, their nurse or the nurse educator at Breast Cancer Centre of Hope for more information around these procedures. Understanding the surgeon's recommendations will help you make an informed decision and one that is right for you.

Treatment Decisions

For those whose cancer is invasive, a number of tests may be recommended to determine if the cancer has spread to any other area of your body. These tests may include:

  • chest x-ray
  • blood work
  • bone scan
  • abdominal ultrasound or CT scan

The results of these tests along with the pathology report will assist your Oncologist (cancer doctor) make treatment recommendations for you. These may include:

  • chemotherapy - drug therapy that can kill cancer cells or make them less active
  • radiation therapy - localized, high energy x-rays used to destroy cancer cells or to shrink tumors
  • hormone therapy - drug treatment that adds, removes or blocks hormones in the body
  • no further treatment

You may also be asked to consider participating in a Clinical Trial where you may be part of establishing the effectiveness of a new treatment option or plan.