The treatment of breast cancer has changed a great deal during the past twenty-five years. In the middle of the 20th Century, a patient with breast cancer normally expected to undergo a mastectomy. The medical community then looked at mastectomy as the standard treatment for breast cancer. The performance of a mastectomy called for surgical removal of the entire breast.
Now oncologists do not recommend such a drastic approach to the treatment of breast cancer. Now the standard treatment for breast cancer is a lumpectomy. A lumpectomy is, like a mastectomy, a surgical procedure, and like a mastectomy it calls for the removal of breast tissue. The lumpectomy, however, is a "breast-conserving surgery." After a lumpectomy, a woman's breast remains intact, because only the tumor has been removed.
Like all surgery, the surgery that is part of a treatment for breast cancer involves adherence to an established procedure. The patient must firs sign the proper forms. Then the patient must tell her healthcare provider what medications, herbs or supplements she might be using. The patient should be told not to eat or drink anything for at least 12 hours before the scheduled surgery.
The patient might think that this surgical treatment for breast cancer is going to be painful. The patient should then talk with the man or woman who will administer the anesthesia. That professional can help to allay the woman's fears.
While a woman need not fear any pain during the surgical treatment for breast cancer, she should be made aware of the possible risks. A lumpectomy can lead to certain complications. Among those complications are infection, bleeding, fluid collection, post-surgical pain and swelling of the arm.
A woman with breast cancer might think that the treatment of breast cancer ends after the lumpectomy. Actually, a lumpectomy is normally followed by the use of radiation therapy. The length of that therapy will usually depend on the results of the sentinel node biopsy.
What is a sentinel node biopsy? It is the removal of tissue from the lymph node that is closest to the excised breast lump. The sentinel biopsy serves as a way to check for the invasion of the surrounding tissues. The biopsy checks for the appearance of cancer cells in the lymph glands. If cancer cells enter the lymph glands, then it becomes easier for those cells to spread to another part of the body.
The sentinel node biopsy is performed during the lumpectomy. Therefore, the breast cancer patient can typically expect to have two incisions-one close to the tumor site and one under the arm, near the lymph nodes. While a woman might cringe at the thought of two incisions, those two incisions are certainly better than removal of the entire breast.
The breast cancer patient should plan to assist with her recovery from surgery. She should plan to bring to the location of the surgery a soft shirt, one that buttons down the front. Such a shirt is the ideal thing for her to wear, when she later rides home, following the surgery.