SolveYourProblem Article Series: Breast Cancer
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Breast Cancer Surgery - Your Options

For any woman facing the prospect of breast surgery there is naturally concern over how extensive it will be. It is reassuring to know that over the past decades great efforts have been made to fine tune the surgical approach. The goal of modern surgery is to preserve and protect as much of the affected breast and tissue as possible.

Another important aspect of modern progress is the fact that the patient is now more involved in the decision making process when it concerns the overall treatment plan. There is no doubt that this can help in that the patient feels that they have a little more control over their situation. This involvement helps to build a greater confidence in a positive outcome. Also, it has been noted that individuals who participate in this manner are more inclined to follow through on any decisions made.

For many women, the fear of surgery and the potential loss of a breast has kept them from acting on any concerns they have and seeking the help of a doctor. It is important to keep in mind that the earlier detection of cancer is made - the more surgical options will be available to her.

In discussing with your physician the different options the point to remember is that each case is unique. He will be looking at the type of cancer - is it fast moving or slow? Has it shown unpredictable characteristics? He will have to determine what stage the cancer has reached. There are basically four stages and they also vary according to the type of cancer. And finally, what you the patient feel that you will be best able to live with over a period of time.

Two of the main types of surgery offered are:

Lumpectomy - This is a removal of the lump or tumor and some of the tissue that surrounds it. This is also known as breast preservation surgery or a partial mastectomy. Depending on the size of the tumor the amount that is removed can vary greatly. It is good to talk to your physician in order to have a clear idea of what to expect and what kind of scar will remain. As a rule, radiation is used as a follow up treatment that is meant to ensure that any cancer cells that may remain in the surrounding tissue are eliminated as well. This will usually run from five to seven weeks. If it is determined that chemotherapy is required as well, the radiation treatments will follow afterwards.

Mastectomy - This is meant to be the total removal of the breast, although over the years it has been refined in order to spare as much of the breast as possible. The extent of the surgery and whether or not any lymph nodes will need to be removed as well, is dependent on the range of the cancer. This will also determine whether or not the surgery will be followed up by radiation treatments.

Some women opt to have breast reconstruction at the same time as the mastectomy. This can be a help in adjusting to this radical operation. Others may wait months or even years to do so. The advantage for some in waiting is that it allows them time to gather their strength to make the necessary decisions involved. However, it may also be necessary to wait if chemotherapy and radiation is required.

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