Breast CancerBreast Cancer TreatmentBreast Cancer Surgery

Let's Talk About Breast Cancer Surgery

It’s nobody’s favorite topic, but the procedure could save your life. Here’s what you need to know about surgery options for breast cancer.

    Our Pro PanelBreast Cancer Surgery

    We went to some of the nation’s top experts in breast cancer to bring you the most up-to-date information possible.

    William Owens, M.D.

    William Owens, M.D.Director

    Aurora BayCare Medical Center Comprehensive Breast Care Center
    Green Bay, WI
    Veronica Jones, M.D.

    Veronica Jones, M.D.Breast Cancer Surgeon and Assistant Clinical Professor

    City of Hope
    Los Angeles, CA
    Janie Grumley, M.D.

    Janie Grumley, M.D.Breast Surgical Oncologist

    Margie Petersen Breast Center at Providence Saint John’s Center
    Santa Monica, CA
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    Frequently Asked QuestionsBreast Cancer Surgery

    What’s the difference between a lumpectomy and mastectomy?

    A lumpectomy is a procedure that removes the tumor and a small amount of surrounding tissue from your breast. With a mastectomy, the surgeon will remove all of your breast tissue. Which one you choose depends on tumor size, recovery time, and aesthetic and personal preferences.

    How likely is the cancer to come back after a lumpectomy?

    About 20% of women will need a second surgery after this procedure, and many will also get radiation treatment. That said, the survival rate between a lumpectomy and mastectomy are about the same.

    What is a nipple-sparing mastectomy?

    In this type of breast cancer surgery, the surgeon is able to leave your nipple and areola intact. But because the nerves, ducts, and tissues that attach to them will be gone, it’s likely that your nipple will be numb. It won’t function the way it used to, but aesthetically some women prefer it.

    How long does breast cancer surgery take?

    It depends on which type of surgery you get, and which kind of procedure you have within that class. In general, lumpectomies are fairly quick operations, lasting between 15 and 40 minutes. Mastectomies are more involved, and the surgery can take several hours.

    Sunny Sea Gold

    Sunny Sea Gold


    Sunny is a health journalist, book author, and essayist living in Portland, OR.