Published on September 30, 2021

Breast Cancer Surgery: What's the Difference?

woman holding pink ribbon

Breast cancer surgery has continued to evolve over the years for the better of the patient. Traditional lumpectomies and mastectomies take care of the cancer, but often leave the patient disfigured and emotionally scarred. Not hiding surgical scars and failing to perform reconstruction after lumpectomy can oftentimes leave disfigurement and “dents” in the breast. This issue can be exacerbated after radiation.

Seven years ago, I began to study and gain additional training in oncoplastics. It became readily apparent to me that there were better cosmetic options for patients undergoing breast cancer surgery. This has become the standard in most places around the country and patients are demanding it.

What is Oncoplastics?

Oncoplastics is oncologic breast surgery (removing the cancer) coupled with plastic surgery reconstruction techniques all in the same operation. By reconstructing the breast during a lumpectomy or mastectomy operation, you get a superior cosmetic result.

There are different levels of oncoplastic surgeries:

  • Level 1 is removal of 20% or less of the breast with local reconstruction.
  • Level 2 is removal of greater than 20% of the breast using volume displacement or replacement techniques. Examples would be using a breast reduction technique to remove the cancer and reconstruct and lift the breast. This is often in conjunction with a symmetry procedure on the opposite side at the same setting.
  • Level 3 is implant-based reconstruction as we would use in a nipple sparring mastectomy through a hidden inframammary incision (underneath the breast).

Who Can Benefit?

Many factors make patients candidates for these procedures; however, it is important to note that there are certain limitations depending on a patient’s body type, breast size and nipple position.

Patients who smoke can also have limited options because of blood flow limitations. Surgeons who are trained and perform these procedures with frequency can help direct you to the best option available.

Easing the Journey

Breast cancer treatment is a difficult struggle both emotionally and physically. Obviously, our No. 1 priority is to treat the breast cancer. If we can make the journey less traumatic and disfiguring for patients, then it is our duty to do so. Studies show that patients’ self-esteem, sexual happiness and mental health are affected by breast cancer surgery. Our goal is to make that better.

Multiple studies have shown that patients receiving oncoplastic surgery for breast cancer have better outcomes and quality of life.

Additional resources:

The Relationship Between Body Esteem and Hope and Mental Health in Breast Cancer Patients after Mastectomy

Body Image of Women with Breast Cancer After Mastectomy: A Qualitative Research

Quality-of-Life and Self-Esteem Outcomes after Oncoplastic Breast-Conserving Surgery

Traditional lumpectomies and mastectomies take care of the cancer, but often leave the patient disfigured and emotionally scarred.