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The first step and most common form of treatment for breast cancer is surgery. Surgery involves removing the tumor and nearby margins of surrounding tissue that may be cancerous. The goal of surgery is to remove not only the tumor, but also enough of the margins to be able to test for the spread of the cancer. If you’re facing breast cancer surgery, these 3 key questions are a solid start to deciding which path is right for you.

  1. What are my best options—full or partial mastectomy?

Many women are often surprised when they learn they have more options for treating breast cancer than they realized. Most women assume that as soon as they’re diagnosed they have to have a mastectomy to have the best chance of survival, but this isn’t always true. Studies have shown that a partial mastectomy—also known as a lumpectomy—typically has the same long term outcome as a full mastectomy as long as it’s followed by a regime of post-surgery radiation. Regardless of whether it’s a full or partial mastectomy, the goal is to remove the cancer as well as some surrounding normal tissue, and how much of the breast is removed depends on the size and location of the tumor and other factors. Your physician will discuss with you the type and extent of your breast cancer, as well as your best possible surgical option.

  1. What about reconstruction?

Immediate reconstruction is breast reconstruction performed at the same time as the mastectomy. Delayed reconstruction is when the patient opts for reconstruction at a later date, sometimes months or even years down the road. Think about what will make you most comfortable, and keep in mind that reconstructed breasts never look exactly the same as a natural breast.

  1. Would endocrine therapy work for me?

There’s a relatively new class of drugs known broadly as endocrine therapy, which is easier to tolerate than chemotherapy. Women don’t lose their hair with endocrine therapy, for example, and often aren’t as nauseous. Patients typically stay on the drug for 5-10 years, taking one pill a day, to treat anything microscopic that may remain of the cancer and to decrease the chance of a recurrence.

Endocrine therapy works by targeting specific receptors, so the decision to utilize it is related to which hormone receptors are available on the patient’s specific breast cancer. For example, a patient with “triple negative” breast cancer has no receptors that would receive the therapy, so she would not be a candidate. If you are not a candidate for endocrine therapy, your physician will talk with you about your other options for treatment, such as chemotherapy.

Premier Surgical Associates in Knoxville is dedicated to the timely diagnosis and comprehensive treatment for all breast cancer patients. Our women’s health team empowers patients and their families to take an active role in the decisions regarding cancer treatment and management. To learn more about your options for breast cancer surgery, visit our website at Premier Surgical Associates.