Breast cancer surgery is generally involves:
removal of the tumor (treats the disease locally)
and removal of the axillary lymph nodes (in the armpit) in order to estimate the risk of the cancer spreading beyond the breast.
The lymph nodes located in the armpit act like small filters that collect the cells that have spread beyond the breast. If the analysis of these nodes is negative the risk of spreading in considered low. If however one or more lymph nodes contain cancer cells then the risk is higher. So removing and analysing the axillary lymph nodes can be a real advantage in treating these types of cancer. On the other hand, if the cancer is “in situ”, the risk of spreading cancerous cells to these nodes is almost zero and so most of the time in these cases they are not removed.
Breast surgery can be:
breast conserving surgery (where the breast is preserved) or
radical (removal of the breast(also called a total mastectomy).
The whole team chooses the appropriate treatment during an Interdisciplinary Concertation Meeting (ICM). Amongst other criteria, the decision is also based on the size of the tumor and the presence of multiple or broadly spread lesions.