Mastectomy vs breast cancer surgery: what is the difference?

After a breast cancer diagnosis, your doctor will probably recommend medications and, if necessary, surgery. However, each of these is based on the cancer's stage and the extent of its spread.

What is a mastectomy?

In this operation, the entire breast tissue is removed along with removal of some or all axillary lymph nodes. Your doctor will advise you appropriately according to clinical stage and feasibility of mastectomy. You can choose to keep your breast skin during a modern mastectomy procedure, giving your breasts a more natural appearance. It is referred to as a "skin-sparing mastectomy." However, you could also choose breast reconstruction surgeries, which aid in restoring your breast.

What is a breast cancer surgery?

Breast cancer surgery aids in the removal of cancerous breast tissue along with preservation of most of the breast.

Most people who have been diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer undergo a lumpectomy/WLE. Radiation therapy is frequently administered after a breast cancer surgery to lower the risk of cancer recurrence.

Reasons why a mastectomy rather than a breast cancer surgery may be advised for you:

  • When the cancer has involved a larger part of the breast and conservation is not feasible.
  • If you have two or more tumours in different breast regions.
  • If you've already received prior surgery or radiation therapy and your cancer has returned in the breast.
  • If you've had a lumpectomy, but the cancer is still visible around the edges of the surgical site and has the potential to spread to other parts of your breast.
  • If you're pregnant and radiation therapy could put the unborn child at risk.
  • When you are at a high risk of getting a second breast cancer due to a gene mutation (prophylactic mastectomy).

A breast cancer surgery may be advised for those who have been diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer since it helps to retain the size, shape and contour of the breast.

The best course of action is to speak with your doctor because it could be challenging for you to choose which one is ideal for you.

Dr. Ashish Goel
Department of Surgical Oncology
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