LA CROSSE, Wis. — A patient with a new breast cancer diagnosis can have many fears and questions related to treatment options. One of those options — breast cancer surgery — has changed, offering patients advanced medical care from what was offered just a few years ago.
"I think there are two key changes have occurred. The first is using a targeting sampling of the lymph nodes," says M. Kathleen Christian, M.D., breast cancer surgeon at Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse. "Traditionally, we had done a removal of the lymph nodes by the armpit that was a broad sampling based on anatomic boundaries, retrieving between 10–20 lymph nodes. That had the potential for chronic side effects and other risks. We now can target the nodes most likely to contain cancer cells if they have spread outside the breast area. We can inject tracers in the breast area at the time of surgery and remove those specific nodes, reducing the risk of side effects, including lymphedema, or arm swelling, down to 5% or less. We continue to identify ways to reduce lymph node surgery."
Another key change that has helped better assist patients with breast cancer surgery is a procedure using oncoplastic techniques. Oncoplastic lumpectomy combines plastic surgery techniques with lumpectomy surgery to give patients the best cosmetic outcome after the cancer is removed.
"It's based on incision placement, tissue flaps that allow providers to bring the tissue back together to avoid and defects," Dr. Christian adds. "We're also able to remove a larger area of tissue while maintaining a normal breast shape and symmetry with the opposite breast."
Studies show that women are concerned about the look of breasts following surgery. Women whose breasts looked different from each other were 60% less likely to believe they were healthier because of the surgery compared to women whose breasts looked similar. The greater the difference, the greater chances of being depressed.
"In some cases, there is another advanced procedure that could become an option when mastectomy is needed called nipple sparing mastectomy," says Dr. Christian. "This surgical advancement allows us to do a mastectomy through a small incision. All of the breast glandular tissue is removed, but the full breast skin envelope and nipple are left completely intact, leaving the reconstructed breast with a very natural appearance.
"The bottom line is we want each woman to be well informed about their decision when it comes to breast surgery. The most important thing women should know is for a majority of cases, they will have the same outcome or survival whether they chose breast conservation or mastectomy. I really want patients to know they are making their choices on facts and not myths or other inaccurate information," adds Christian.
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Press ContactRick Thiesse