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Surgery Options for Breast Cancer Treatment

Women who need surgery may be a candidate for either a lumpectomy (removal of the tumor and surrounding tissue) or a mastectomy (total removal of one or both breasts). Women may also choose to have reconstructive surgery after lumpectomy or mastectomy.

Free pre-op classes presented by Inova Breast Cancer Program

If you’re planning breast surgery, we can help you prepare and answer all your questions. Learn more about our free pre-op classes presented by Inova breast care navigators arrow


Lumpectomy is also called “breast conserving surgery” because it involves the removal of only the tumor and some of the surrounding tissue, preserving as much of the breast as possible. Lumpectomy is most often followed by several weeks of radiation therapy to ensure that any remaining cancer cells are destroyed. An estimated 50 percent of women with breast cancer are good candidates for lumpectomy. Learn more about this procedure arrow


Mastectomy is surgery to remove one or both breasts. Different types of mastectomy are performed depending on the amount of breast tissue that must be removed or whether lymph nodes and the nipple are removed.

Mastectomy does not require radiation therapy following surgery and may be a better choice than lumpectomy when:

  • The tumor is larger than 5 centimeters
  • A woman’s breast is small and a lumpectomy would be disfiguring
  • A previous lumpectomy has been unsuccessful in removing the cancer
  • Other health conditions mean mastectomy is the best choice
  • Removing the entire breast offers peace of mind that the cancer is gone

Making a decision between lumpectomy and mastectomy can be very difficult for women. There are benefits and risks to both. Your physician is your best resource as you consider your options. Learn more about mastectomy arrow

Reconstructive surgery

Some women choose to have reconstructive surgery on their breast. Reconstructive surgery may be done immediately following lumpectomy or mastectomy. Sometimes women have the surgery later. Others choose not to have any form of reconstruction.

Inova offers a number of breast reconstruction options, each designed to restore the removed breast tissue with an alternate that resembles the anatomic form and characteristics of a normal breast. Among the procedures offered at Inova are the TRAM flap procedure, which uses tissue from the abdomen to reconstruct the breast, as well as the newer DIEP flap and SIEA flap procedures. The flap procedures spare abdominal muscle tissue, resulting in decreased post-operative pain, less long term abdominal weakness and a decreased chance of post-surgical hernia formation. Breast implants are another option. Learn more about reconstructive options after breast surgery arrow

Post-surgery care

Every surgery patient is unique and may require different post-operative instruction to heal properly. Your care team will talk with you about your care instructions for the days and weeks after surgery. This will include caring for your incision and drain as well as when you can return to activities and work.