What You Didn’t Know About Surgery for Breast Cancer

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Breast Cancer Surgery

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), breast cancer affects one in eight women during their lives and kills more women in the U.S. than any other cancer, with the exception of lung cancer. It can occur at any age, but is more likely after age 40.

Every woman has a chance of developing breast cancer. It can even occur in men, though it’s not as common. Early detection is key to successful treatment, and that treatment almost always includes surgery.

In fact, patients will often see a surgeon before ever seeing a medical or radiation oncologist. That’s because when cancer is found at an early enough stage, surgery may be the only treatment they need.

Patients have two options when it comes to breast cancer surgery. The first is breast conservation surgery, or a lumpectomy, in which just an area of the cancer is removed. The second is a mastectomy, in which the entire breast is removed to keep the cancer from spreading.

In most cases, the personal feelings and wishes of the patient are part of the decision-making process when deciding on a surgical treatment plan, but it also depends on several other factors such as her other medical problems, the type and stage of the breast cancer, the size and location of the tumor, and the size of the breasts.

When it comes to breast conservation versus removing the entire breast, studies have shown that in early stage breast cancer, one is not better than the other. Both have risks and benefits, and both are equivalent in treatment and effectiveness.

Breast cancer is a difficult diagnosis for women and the beginning of a long journey. Even if the cancer is at an early stage with a good prognosis, it comes with tremendous stress and anxiety. The earlier it is caught, the better though.

While the recommendations vary by medical group on when women should begin regular breast cancer screenings with mammograms, they all agree it is between age 40 and 50. A mammogram can find cancer when it’s very small, often years before it would otherwise be detected by a woman or her doctor. A monthly breast self-examination is also recommended as a good practice for early detection.

Women are naturally very concerned when they feel a lump and will quickly think they must have cancer, but there can be benign lumps that mimic breast cancer. My advice is that every palpable breast lump be evaluated immediately. Many times it will be benign, but it needs to be taken very seriously.

On a positive note, breast cancer is a disease that has a lot of awareness. Our community has many great resources to support patients who are facing this disease, including Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center and Woman’s Hospital. They have excellent patient navigation systems that will provide support on many different levels and get patients plugged into even more resources through the American Cancer Society, the Komen Foundation, Cancer Services of Baton Rouge, and breast cancer support groups.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Want to learn more about how you can join the fight against breast cancer? Geaux Pink with Mary Bird Perkins-Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center.

About Dr. John Lyons

Lyons, John M. John M. Lyons, III, MD, FACS, is a member of the Surgeons Group of Baton Rouge at Our Lady of the Lake and specializes in cancer surgery. Dr. Lyons received his medical degree from Louisiana State University School of Medicine in New Orleans, LA. He completed his general surgery internship and residency at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, LA, and his Fellowship at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, NY.
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