February 25, 2020
When a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, her first priority is getting rid of the cancer properly. At the same time, she hopes to achieve the best cosmetic outcome from her surgery, whether she undergoes a lumpectomy or mastectomy. For some, the appearance of the breasts may impact self-image. Oncoplastic breast surgery can help women reclaim both their physical and emotional health.
What is Oncoplastic Breast Surgery?
“Onco” refers to efforts to achieve the best cancer outcome from surgery. “Plastic” refers to the best cosmetic outcome. Oncoplastic techniques allow breast surgeons to perform better cancer operations by removing more breast tissue while still maintaining the shape, contour and volume of the breast.
Contrary to what may seem logical, surgeons have learned that shorter incisions often result in more prominent scars and now perform many breast surgeries using longer incisions closed in a meticulous fashion. Also, by paying careful attention to where they are placed, incisions heal with the narrowest possible scars or are hidden from view.
While usually performed by breast surgeons, when an oncoplastic procedure is more extensive, plastic surgeons may assist with the surgery.
During a lumpectomy, surgeons remove just the tumor in a woman’s breast, a small amount of surrounding tissue, and sometimes lymph nodes under her arm. A woman is able to keep her breast, including her nipple and areola. Oncoplastic techniques can eliminate the visible tissue indentation often seen at the lumpectomy incision site.
A mastectomy removes a woman’s entire breast. There are several types of mastectomy procedures, each removing breast skin and tissue in differing amounts.
- Modified Radical Mastectomy: The most commonly performed mastectomy in which the tumor, breast tissue, nipple, areola, underarm lymph nodes and the lining over the chest wall muscles are removed.
- Simple or Total Mastectomy: Removes the entire breast; for many breast cancers, accompanied by removal of a limited number of “sentinel lymph nodes” from under the arm.
- Skin-Sparing Mastectomy: Preserves breast skin during a total mastectomy.
- Nipple-Sparing Mastectomy: Spares the nipple and areola during total mastectomy.
It is important to note that not all cancers are amenable to surgical treatment with skin and nipple sparing mastectomies.
Oncoplastic Procedures and Results
Women sometimes ask if the focus on cosmetic outcomes impacts the effectiveness of their cancer operation. The answer is an emphatic no. In fact by using oncoplastic techniques, surgeons can perform even more successful cancer operations, removing larger amounts of potentially cancerous breast tissue.
Breast cancer is a complex disease with many individual variables. Women should thoroughly discuss treatment options with their oncologist, breast surgeon, family members, and others to decide which path is right for them. You can learn more about breast cancer surgery, treatment and prevention at LGHealth.org/BreastCancer.