Breast cancer is common. One in 7 Australian women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime, but we have one of the best survival rates in the world. Treatments for breast cancer have changed over the last few decades and has become more individualised. It is important to remember that your treatment plan and experience may be different to other patients.
The two main types of surgery are wide local excision (lumpectomy) and a mastectomy (removal of the entire breast). The decision on what type of operation is dependent on many factors e.g. breast size, patient comorbidities, tumour size, tumour location, and other treatment after surgery such as radiotherapy. A good cosmetic outcome is always an important consideration in the decision making but my priority is to give you the best cancer treatment. Your preference is equally important, and I will always spend time to discuss the pros and cons on each option.
Breast reconstruction will be discussed when performing a mastectomy. The options for breast reconstruction are similarly individualised and often will require a couple of consultations to come to a decision. I perform implant-based reconstruction, which may not be suitable for all patients. If I think there is a better option, I will refer patients on to a plastic surgeon that specialises in breast reconstruction.
Complications from breast cancer surgery
Bleeding, infection, seroma (fluid collection), scar and wound healing issues are potential complications for all surgery. There is a 20% chance of more surgery required due to a positive margin. When removing the cancer, it is important to have some normal tissue around it (a margin) to be confident we have excised it all. If cancer extends to the margin, further surgery will be needed. This is only known a few days after surgery when the pathologist has examined the specimen. There may be more specific complications depending on your type of surgery that I will go into more detail at your consultation. It is important to ask questions and voice concerns such that you can comfortably make an informed decision.