Cancer Care

Breast Surgery

Treatment for breast cancer sometimes includes surgery to remove the cancer. Providers at MaineHealth provide the highest standard of care and advanced practice for patients who need breast surgery.  

What is breast surgery?

Breast surgery is a part of treatment for women with breast cancer. The surgery is done to remove the cancer.

Breast surgery risks

As with any operation, breast surgery has potential risks and side effects.

  • Pain or tenderness
  • Swelling at the surgery site
  • Buildup of blood in the wound
  • Buildup of clear fluid in the wound
  • Limited arm or shoulder movement
  • Numbness in the chest or upper arm
  • Nerve pain in the chest wall, armpit, and/or arm that doesn’t go away over time

Breast Surgery Types

Doctors will work with patients to decide which type of breast surgery is the best option to treat their breast cancer. The main types of breast surgery include:

Breast-conserving surgery, also called a lumpectomy, involves removal of the part of the breast containing cancer.

  • A lumpectomy involves removing a small part, or “lump,” of breast containing cancer.

The goal is to remove the cancer as well as some surrounding normal tissue. How much of the breast removed depends on the size and location of the tumor and other factors.  This may be a good option for women with early-stage breast cancer.

Mastectomy is a type of breast surgery in which the entire breast is removed, and may include the nipple as well. There are several different types of mastectomies. Some women may also get a double mastectomy, in which both breasts are removed. Women will discuss with their surgeon recommendations in regards to having a single or double mastectomy. A double mastectomy is often done as a preventive surgery for women at very high risk for getting cancer in the other breast, or for those who have the breast cancer gene.    

Plastic and reconstructive breast surgery may be done after breast cancer surgery. This is called breast reconstruction. Before undergoing mastectomy or other surgical treatment, patients can explore options for immediate or delayed reconstructive breast surgery. Following discussion with the surgeon, patients may be recommended to meet with a plastic surgeon to discuss possible procedures for breast reduction procedures and/or reconstruction of a breast mound following the removal of the breast tissue. 

Breast surgery recovery: What to expect

Recovery from breast surgery can take a few weeks and is longer for reconstruction surgery. Recovery from breast surgery may include:

  • Taking pain medication

  • Rest

  • Caring for the wound, stitches and staples, and dressing

  • Monitoring for signs of infection

  • Exercise arm to prevent arm and shoulder stiffness