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Surgery for Breast Cancer

Virtua has attained excellence in breast cancer surgery by providing all of the modern options available, by thoroughly understanding the evidence-based, optimum choices for each of its patients and by delivering every step of care at the highest quality levels.

Virtua has continued to respond to the need for quality breast-cancer services by enhancing its staff and resources to provide the best care for patients with this all-to-common disease. Its expanded team of breast surgeons serves as the focal point of a coordinated effort for each patient that determines and delivers the optimum available treatment.

The vast majority of breast cancer patients undergo some form of surgery, which serves as the core treatment step sequenced often with other important modalities of treatment. The breast surgeon helps to define, refine and schedule this care, often working with the medical oncologists and radiation therapists. The team may support the effectiveness of operative procedures with other treatments that take place before or after surgery.

Virtua breast surgeons use sentinel node biopsy to help determine the extent and spread of breast cancer prior to surgery. Learn more.

Biopsy: Testing a Sample of Abnormal Tissue
Often the first surgical step is a breast biopsy, in which the Virtua surgical team removes a small amount of the abnormal tissue to determine whether is it benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Examination of the tissue cells in the pathology laboratory can help to determine the stage of the cancer and sometimes the particular type of tumor cell, which assists the team in further refining and targetting the treatment plan.

Typically the team can remove the sample tissue with a fine needle, guided by radiologic imaging. (Learn more about imaging in breast biopsy.) Less commonly, an incision is necessary to access the tumor tissue.

Surgery Based on Each Patient’s Case
Breast cancer operations are designed to:

  • remove the tumor itself and cancerous tissue around it;
  • remove the cancerous breast as well;
  • or to also remove noncancerous breasts that have a high likelihood of becoming cancerous.

Thus, the major types of breast operations are:

  • Lumpectomy. Using breast imaging,

    See physician newsletter on reconstructive breast surgery.

    the Virtua surgical team can precisely map the location of a breast tumor; and then, depending on the type, stage and size of the cancer mass, the team may be able to use a small incision to remove just the abnormal mass itself, minimizing impact on the breast.

  • Mastectomy. In other cases, the safer treatment route, to avoid leaving any residual disease, is to remove the entire breast and the nodes to which the breast’s lymph system drains. Today, these operations are easier to undergo because surrounding muscle is generally not removed and because of improved surgical techniques.
  • Preventive Mastectomy. Some patients have a medical or family history that make it clear that one or both remaining breasts have a high likelihood of becoming cancerous. In these cases, the Virtua breast surgeon will make a carefully considered recommendation for breast removal as protection against developing future breast cancer.

Breast surgeons at Virtua remain closely involved in their patients’ care after surgery, to help monitor and follow-up their condition; to guide them through any needed healing, recovery and rehabilitation stages; and to perform any subsequent surgery for breast reconstruction or other purposes. Patients maintain an ongoing relationship with the team through the conclusion of care, including through dialogue with the woman’s primary provider, and during the subsequent monitoring period.

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