Over the years, breast cancer has become the most common cancer among women in India. Since no two breast cancers are the same, it is important for specialists to thoroughly go through the patient’s diagnostic information, employ a multidisciplinary team approach, and devise personalised treatment plans. This supports prompt recovery among patients while also promoting a better quality of life after the treatment.
The best cancer hospitals have a dedicated breast cancer care team that comprises breast surgical oncologists, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, reconstruction specialists, nuclear medicine specialists, radiologists, rehabilitation experts, pain management specialists, and general physicians.
Breast surgical oncology is a special subspecialty of surgical oncology that focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. This one-of-a-kind subspecialty focuses on understanding breast cancer in the best way possible and effectively managing it by employing different surgical approaches.
Surgical Approaches for Breast Cancer Management
At HCG, our breast surgical oncologists use a multidisciplinary approach to devise personalised treatment plans for breast cancer patients.
We have highly skilled breast surgical oncologists who are trained to perform a variety of procedures to diagnose and treat breast cancer, including breast biopsy, lumpectomy (removal of a breast tumour), mastectomy (removal of the entire breast), and sentinel lymph node biopsy (removal of lymph nodes for examination). Our breast surgical oncologists recommend and perform surgeries to manage both benign and malignant breast tumours.
Breast Biopsy: A breast biopsy is a procedure in which a small sample of breast tissue is removed and examined under a microscope for the presence of cancerous cells. A biopsy is often recommended for a definitive diagnosis. There are several types of breast biopsy, including fine needle aspiration, core needle biopsy, and excisional biopsy. The type of biopsy recommended will depend on the size and location of the suspicious area in the breast.
Lumpectomy: Lumpectomy is a surgical procedure, wherein the breast tumour is removed along with a small margin of surrounding healthy tissue. Since this procedure does not remove the entire breast, it is also known as “breast conservation surgery.” This procedure is typically used for early-stage breast cancers that are small and localised.
Mastectomy: Mastectomy is a surgical procedure that removes the entire breast. There are different types of mastectomy, namely:
- Total mastectomy: This type of mastectomy removes the entire breast, including the nipple and areola.
- Modified radical mastectomy: This procedure involves the removal of the entire breast, some lymph nodes, and the lining over the chest muscles. The chest muscles are left intact.
- Radical mastectomy: This procedure removes the entire breast, all the lymph nodes under the arm, and the chest muscles.
- Skin-sparing mastectomy: This type of mastectomy removes the breast tissue and nipple. However, the skin is left intact to facilitate reconstruction.
- Nipple-sparing mastectomy: During this procedure, the breast cancer surgeon removes the breast tissue, leaving the nipple and skin intact. This procedure will be followed by reconstructive surgery.
The type of mastectomy that is recommended will depend on the size and stage of the breast cancer, as well as the patient’s overall health.
Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy: During this procedure, the lymph nodes that are most likely to be affected by breast cancer are removed and examined for the presence of cancer cells. This procedure is typically performed in conjunction with a lumpectomy or mastectomy and can help determine the extent of the cancer and the need for additional treatment.
Breast Reconstruction Surgery After Breast Cancer Treatment
Breast reconstruction surgery is a surgical procedure that is used to rebuild the shape of the breast after a mastectomy (removal of the entire breast) or lumpectomy (removal of a breast tumour). The goal of breast reconstruction surgery is to restore the appearance of the breast as well as improve self-esteem and quality of life for patients who have undergone breast cancer surgery. At HCG, we have breast surgical oncologists and reconstruction surgeons who have received extensive training and have vast experience in performing breast reconstruction surgeries.
Breast reconstruction surgery can be performed either with the use of artificial implants or tissues from other parts of the body.
Implant-based Reconstruction: In this type of reconstruction, an artificial implant is used to recreate the shape of the breast. The implant can be placed under the chest muscle or directly behind the breast tissue. Breast implants are classified into two types: saline implants and silicone implants.
Autologous Reconstruction: In this type of reconstruction, tissues from other parts of the body are used to rebuild the breast. The most common type of autologous reconstruction is called a “flap” procedure, in which tissue, fat, and skin are taken from another part of the body (such as the abdomen, buttocks, or inner thigh) and used to rebuild the breast.
Hybrid Reconstruction: In this type of reconstruction, a combination of implants and autologous tissue is used to recreate the breast.
The type of breast reconstruction surgery that is best for a particular patient will depend on a variety of factors, including the patient’s overall health, the size and shape of the breast, and the patient’s personal preferences.
Breast reconstruction surgery can be performed at the same time as the mastectomy or lumpectomy (immediate reconstruction), or it can be performed later (delayed reconstruction). Immediate reconstruction has the advantage of allowing the patient to wake up from surgery with a breast-like shape, but it may not be possible for all patients due to other medical conditions or the stage of cancer. Delayed reconstruction allows for more time to heal from the initial surgery and may be recommended for patients who are not candidates for immediate reconstruction.
Overall, breast reconstruction surgery can be a very effective way to rebuild the shape of the breast after breast cancer surgery and improve patients’ self-esteem and quality of life. It is important to discuss your options with your surgeon and healthcare team to make an informed decision about the best course of treatment for you.
Breast Surgical Oncology at HCG
The primary goal of having the breast surgical oncology subspeciality at HCG is to ensure that every breast cancer that we are presented with is diagnosed accurately and treated effectively. Our breast surgical oncologists also prioritise the patient’s comfort and quality of life during and after the treatment. Our team strives to stay current with the advances happening in the field of breast cancer care and employs advanced surgical approaches to help patients win over breast cancer.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Should I be worried if I have breast pain?
No. Breast pain can occur for various reasons. In most cases, the pain could be due to hormonal changes that are seen throughout the menstrual cycle. Nevertheless, if you are experiencing breast pain that is extreme and prolonged, you must seek appropriate medical attention.
2. When should I see a doctor for breast cancer?
During your monthly self-breast examination, if you find something abnormal, such as the presence of a lump, a change in the shape of your breasts, or a change in appearance, you should see a doctor/general physician. If the GP finds these symptoms to be alarming, you will be asked to consult a breast cancer specialist.
3. What are the different risk factors for breast cancer?
Various factors, including age, contribute to breast cancer risk. The following are important risk factors for breast cancer:
- Family History of Breast Cancer: Those with a family history of breast cancer tend to have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
- Early Menstruation: Getting the first period before age 12 is also found to be a risk factor for breast cancer.
- Late/No Pregnancy: Women who get their first pregnancy after age 30 or who never get pregnant also have a higher risk of breast cancer.
- Hormone Replacement Therapies: Hormone replacement therapy is also reported to increase the risk of breast cancer.
- Tobacco and Alcohol Consumption: Tobacco and alcohol consumption increases breast cancer risk.
That said, a few measures that can reduce breast cancer risk include exercising regularly, cultivating healthier food habits, quitting tobacco, and reducing alcohol intake. Also, breastfeeding is found to reduce the risk of breast cancer.