Breast Cancer Surgery

About breast cancer surgery

Breast cancer is often treated with surgery, either alone or in combination with other treatments. Depending on factors such as your breast size, the location and size of the tumor and whether the cancer has spread to the under-arm lymph nodes, there are different types of breast cancer surgery that may be recommended.

Types of breast cancer surgery

The two main types of breast cancer surgery are lumpectomy and mastectomy:


This surgery is sometimes called breast-conserving surgery because it is performed with the goal of removing as little healthy breast tissue as possible while removing all of the cancerous cells. During the procedure, your surgeon may also do a sentinel lymph node biopsy (removing only the first nodes which could be involved with cancer) or in some cases a lymph node dissection, to further determine whether the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.

After the surgery, radiation therapy will often be recommended to prevent cancer from developing further in your breast.


During a mastectomy, your surgeon will remove the entire breast as well as the breast skin, lymph nodes and underlying muscle. This procedure is rare with the help of advancements in cancer treatment, but when it is required, modern mastectomy surgeries include:

  • Simple (total) mastectomy: breast tissue, nipple, areola and skin removed
  • Modified radical: breast tissue, nipple, areola, skin and axillary lymph nodes removed
  • Skin-sparing: breast, nipple, areola and sentinel lymph nodes removed, but not the rest of the breast skin
  • Nipple-sparing: breast tissue and sentinel lymph nodes removed, but no skin is removed (nipple and areola are saved)

Breast reconstruction after surgery

After either a mastectomy or a lumpectomy, you may be interested in having one or both breasts reconstructed, which can alter the size, shape and symmetry of the breasts. Reconstruction can help you feel more confident and comfortable after the loss of a breast or a portion of a breast.

Our surgeons will work with you to discuss your options for reconstruction for your personal wants and needs. If you only need reconstruction for one breast, we also offer breast lift, breast augmentation and breast reduction of the second breast to create a more even appearance.

Breast reconstruction surgery is often done at the same time as a mastectomy or lumpectomy, but your provider may advise postponing breast reconstruction until after you are finished with radiation therapy. Your oncologist will help you consider your options so you can make an informed decision.

The two types of breast reconstruction are implant and flap, or some combination of the two. For an implant reconstruction, the surgeon may use an "expander" to gently "grow" the breast to the desired size prior to inserting a permanent implant. Flap, or autologous reconstruction, uses skin, muscle and fat from your own belly, back or buttocks to "build" a new breast.

Hidden scar breast surgery

In this procedure, your surgeon will place your incision in a location that is hard to see so that the scar is not visible when your incision heals. The Hidden Scar approach can be performed for a nipple-sparing mastectomy or a lumpectomy. Options for Hidden Scar breast cancer surgery will be determined based on the size and location of your tumor, your breast shape and your breast size.


Cancer Care

From diagnosis and throughout treatment, Main Line Health cancer specialists (oncologists) provide compassionate care for you and your loved ones through all stages of cancer treatment.

General Surgery

General surgeons are doctors who are board certified as specialists in many different types of surgery. At Main Line Health, our general surgeons are an important part of your care team.