Saint Alphonsus Health System

Surgery: Breast Conservation

For most women, breast conservation will be the treatment of choice since it is less traumatic, and the survival results are identical to survival rates with mastectomy. However, not all women are candidates for breast conservation, and some women prefer mastectomy. We believe women should be given the facts and encouraged to make their own choices.

Women considering breast conservation must have a clear understanding of the issue of '”margins". The goal in breast conservation is to remove the tumor, along with a surrounding rim of normal tissue. Obtaining clear margins all around the tumor edges can be a challenge.

Although the surgeon attempts to take out the entire tumor at the time of the initial surgery, in some cases the tumor cells (which are not visible during the surgery) are found by the pathologist to extend to the edge (margin) of the lumpectomy specimen, and a second operation is required. Fortunately, the vast majority of women who initially choose breast conservation will ultimately achieve a good to excellent cosmetic result. Long-term survival is equal to that with mastectomy.