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Patient Education: Diseases Conditions Treatments & Procedures

Breast Cancer

Surgery and After Surgery

Surgery is usually the first step in treating breast cancer. It is used to determine the stage of breast cancer and to remove the tumor from the breast. Surgery alone may cure some breast cancers but it is commonly used in combination with other treatments such as radiation, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy or biological therapy. There are two types of breast surgery to be considered for breast cancer patients in conjunction with their surgeon: breast conserving therapy, also called lumpectomy (removal of a portion of the breast) and mastectomy (removal of the entire breast). Along with removing the cancer, your surgeon may perform an axillary lymph node dissection or a sentinel lymph node biopsy to determine if the cancer has spread to your lymph nodes.

Occasionally after surgery and/or radiation, swelling of your arm, and possibly your chest and back can occur. This is known as lymphedema. This is caused by the changed lymph drainage as a result of your surgery or radiation. The swelling usually goes away. If it does not, you should speak to your health care professional for further advice.

As a result of the changed lymph flow, it is easier for infection to develop in your arm. If your hand or your arm becomes red and painful call your family doctor, oncologist or go to your nearest emergency department. You may have an infection that needs to be treated with antibiotics.

There is a Lymphedema Clinic at The Odette Cancer Center. Your doctor or nurse can refer you to this clinic if needed. A nurse, who specializes in the care and prevention of lymphedema, will assess you and offer suggestions.

Visit the Breast Care Group at Odette Cancer Centre