It’s Vital to Know All of Your Surgical Options and Your Post-Op Choices
If you’re wondering “why should I do a pre-surgery consultation,” that’s what we’re blogging about this month. After the initial shock that comes with a breast cancer diagnosis, the next step usually leads to treatment and after-care. Sometimes you can treat and eliminate breast cancer without surgical options, but that’s not usually the case. When diagnosed with breast cancer, a few reasons it’s important to have a pre-surgery consultation include:
- Understanding each type of surgery
- Weighing the pros and cons between a lumpectomy and mastectomy
- Deciding if you want breast reconstruction or a prosthesis
Having a Consultation Helps You Understand Every Type of Surgery
Obviously, choosing to have a pre-surgery consultation means you’re considering surgery. When you have a pre-surgery consultation, the surgeon usually outlines the different types of surgery available to you. Three common surgical options involved with treating breast cancer include getting a lumpectomy, mastectomy, and an axillary lymph node dissection.
Axillary Lymph Node Dissection
An axillary lymph node dissection involves the surgeon removing lymph nodes from under the arm. Once removed, they’re given to a pathologist, who examines the lymph nodes for cancer cells. Cancer found in the sentinel lymph node could lead to another lymph node dissection surgery. How many lymph nodes get removed varies from patient to patient. If you have a tumor less than five centimeters, usually two or less sentinel lymph nodes with cancer get dissected. Often this includes getting a lumpectomy and radiation, Moreover, if you need to get a mastectomy, you might avoid an axillary lymph node dissection all together.
A lumpectomy dissects the tumor itself and a small margin of cancer-free tissue around it, leaving most of the breast. If you’re diagnosed with invasive cancer, oncologists generally recommend radiation therapy to the remaining breast tissue after surgery. A lumpectomy is also known as breast-conserving surgery, a partial mastectomy, quadrantectomy, or a segmental mastectomy lumpectomy.
A mastectomy is the surgical option that removes the entire breast. Often only one breast needs removed, however many women opt for double-mastectomies to stave off reoccurrence in their other breast. Among the various styles include a skin-sparing mastectomy and a nipple-sparing mastectomy.
Weigh Pros and Cons of a Lumpectomy vs. Mastectomy at a Consultation
So, between a lumpectomy and a mastectomy, which is better for you? That’s another reason to have a pre-surgery consultation. Your surgeon can help you weigh the pros and cons of each surgical option.
Lumpectomy Pros and Cons
A lumpectomy especially benefits younger patients and patients with larger tumors. If you’re newly diagnosed and have BRCA1, BRCA2, CHEK2, or ATM gene mutations, a lumpectomy might be the better surgery. While these pros could tip the scales in favor of a lumpectomy, this surgical option has a few disadvantages. At a minimum, lumpectomy patients usually go through five weeks of radiation. There’s also a slightly higher risk of developing a local cancer recurrence after a lumpectomy.
Mastectomy Pros and Cons
Though more invasive than a lumpectomy surgery, a mastectomy surgery definitely eliminates breast cancer, because of the complete breast dissection. Usually, mastectomy patients don’t need radiation after surgery. If there’s a cancer recurrence, mastectomy patients generally only have radiation to the affected area without further surgery. Furthermore, if you have the BRCA1, BRCA2, CHEK2, or ATM gene mutations, you still have the option of a nipple-sparing mastectomy. The major disadvantage of this surgical option is losing your breast completely. In the case of a mastectomy surgery, you can opt for breast reconstruction or a prosthesis.
Decide Between Breast Reconstruction or Prosthesis Post Consultation
During your pre-surgery consultation, you might also discuss post-surgery decisions. Will you need radiation, chemotherapy, or both? What about recovery—should you go to a rehabilitation facility after surgery or can you get in-home care? If you conclude getting a mastectomy as your surgical option, a post-surgery decision could include choosing breast reconstruction or prosthesis.
Things You Should Know If You Need a Breast Reconstruction
If breast construction seems the best option for you, you should discuss with the surgeon both the benefits and disadvantages. Ultimately, the most significant advantage of breast reconstruction is you permanently regain your breast shape. That said, a reconstructed breast is not a perfect match or substitute for a natural breast. Usually, tissue used in the reconstruction comes from another area of the body and often looks different after surgery.
If You Don’t Need or Want Reconstruction, Consider a Custom Breast Prosthesis
So, you’ve weighed the post-surgery options and decided you don’t want breast reconstruction, but do want symmetry on your torso. There’s another way to achieve that … a custom breast prosthesis. At Second to Nature, we offer a wide variety of products that create a natural silhouette for women with breast asymmetry. We have the largest selection of post-breast surgery fashions, accessories, and products in the greater Roanoke, VA, area. Give us a call to schedule a consultation today!
Call Second To Nature at (540) 366-2711 for information about our services. We specialize in custom breast prosthesis and mastectomy education. Follow us on Facebook for updates. We’d also be happy to further answer the question, “Why should I do a pre-surgery consultation?”