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Cancer Treatment - Surgery as Breast Cancer Treatment Option.

Jul 8, 2008
No person wants to undergo surgery. Luckily, breast cancer surgery that is performed today is targeted than it has been in the past. Individuals today do not experience as much scarring and are able to quickly recover while also receiving treatment that is effective enough to lower the odds of recurrence.

The tools that are utilized to diagnose cancer are now more precise because the disease itself is better understood. Normal methods are still used, but not automatically. Each instance of cancer is different and is analyzed in a different manner. Breast cancer patients now have options, they are now able to be active participants in their surgery decisions.

One of the most common choices made is known as a lumpectomy. Just what it sounds like, a lumpectomy is the surgical removal of the lump that constitutes the cancer tumor. Even here there are a wide range of choices. The amount of tissue removed around the lump varies. Surgeons make a judgment call about how much is needed to reduce the chances of the cancer returning.

Depending upon the location and size of the tumor and how long the tumor has been growing and developing one or more lymph nodes might be removed in the process of a lumpectomy. Lymph nodes are bean-sized glands that are shaped like oval. They operate as part of a system that runs throughout an individual's body. Lymph nodes are necessary in the immune system. They fight bacteria and foreign body invasion.

Once cancer has reached and infected a lymph node the cancer can easily and quickly spread all over the body through the blood vessels connecting the lymph nodes together. If this occurs it can make cancer extremely difficult to treat. Often times chemotherapy and even radiation treatments are necessary at this stage.

To reduce the chances of this occurring, surgeons usually remove one or more of the lymph nodes that are located close to a cancerous tumor. Lab tests are then conducted to check to see if the cancer has spread. Again each case is different and the options and actions should be discussed with the medical team involved.

Breast cancer, like others, develops in stages determined by the size, location and type of tumors that make up the cancer. When breast cancer has reached a stage where it's called for, surgery may go beyond a lumpectomy. The patient and doctor (usually an oncologist) may opt for a partial or segmental mastectomy, sometimes called a quadrantectomy.

In that procedure more breast tissue is removed than in a simple lumpectomy. In many cases radiation therapy may be part of the follow up treatment regimen, often extending for six or eight weeks. The goal is to ensure that all the cancer was removed, or that any remaining malignant tissue the surgeon was unable to get is destroyed by the radiation.

In more extreme cases, which are fortunately recommended much less often today, a mastectomy may be performed. Most or all of the breast is removed. When no lymph nodes are taken, the procedure is called a simple or total mastectomy. When all the breast tissue is removed, along with the nipple and lymph nodes in the armpit, the surgery is termed a modified radical mastectomy.

When a surgeon has to remove the chest wall muscles the procedure is then called a radical mastectomy. This action is very extreme and is not typically used today. When it is required prosthetics and reconstructive surgery can often be used to completely restore an individual's appearance.

Hospital stay varies with the type of treatment, ranging from outpatient, same-day release for a simple lumpectomy to a week for more intensive procedures. Explore all your options and research the effects carefully. Ask questions and don't be put off by too-busy physicians. Finding one willing to answer questions at length in layman's terms is the first step toward proper treatment.
About the Author
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