Wellstar Breast Surgery
Breast Surgery provides a wide range of life-changing procedures, including reconstruction, mastectomy and lumpectomy, as well as, follow-up reconstruction to restore your appearance and health after surgery.
Understanding Breast Surgery
Wellstar provides comprehensive, full-spectrum breast diagnostic and treatment options. In addition, we offer a range of support services to help patients and their families throughout this treatment journey, from counseling to exercise and nutritional services.
Wellstar was the first breast center in Georgia to be granted a full three-year accreditation designation by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC). In addition, Wellstar offers innovative advantages in the fight against breast cancer, including:
- Dedicated breast surgeons, who practice state-of-the-art care, including minimally invasive biopsy procedures and less invasive surgery for breast cancer.
- Medical oncologists who specialize in breast cancer and provide patients with access to advances through clinical trials.
- Radiation oncologists offering the latest in treatment options, including APBI or accelerated partial breast irradiation—which allows patients to complete their treatment in five days, versus the traditional five-to-six week regimen.
- Cutting-edge digital imaging, including dedicated breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and the ability to perform minimally invasive image-guided breast biopsies.
- Clinical trials—more than 200 patients are currently enrolled in Wellstar programs.
- A comprehensive support network for cancer patients and their families, that includes counseling, cosmetic support for the side effects of treatment, lymphedema prevention and management, and exercise programs designed for better health.
- One of the most active genetic counseling programs in Georgia.
Wellstar breast surgeons are part of a team, including your oncologist, who will recommend treatment tailored to your condition and prognosis. Patients have access to the most advanced digital imaging technology, facilities and a team of skilled breast specialists in surgery, radiology, pathology and oncology.
Wellstar’s comprehensive program includes diagnosis, treatment, genetic testing,complementary therapies, clinical trials and support throughout your treatment.
Preparation and recovery from breast surgery differ depending on the type of procedure, but generally all of them require general anesthesia and a couple of weeks of recovery. Most surgeries for partial breast removal or breast reconstruction can be completed on an outpatient basis, while mastectomies generally require a hospital stay of a day or two. Some surgeries require the placement of tubes for one or two weeks to help with post-surgical draining. Your surgeon will provide specific instructions for both preparations and recovery.
For many of these procedures, particularly if completed for cancer treatment, the surgery serves as one part of the treatment and is typically followed by radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
Breast Conserving Surgery
For these surgeries, only a part of the breast is removed; the amount depends on the size and place of tumors or growths and other factors. For a lumpectomy, the surgeon removes only the breast lump and a minimal amount of tissue around it. For a quadrantectomy or partial (segmental) mastectomy, the surgeon will remove more of the breast tissue than during a lumpectomy.
For both procedures, if cancer cells are not found at the edges of the removed tissues, it is said to have “negative” or “clear” margins.
But if there are cancerous cells at the edges, then the tissue is deemed to have “positive” margins, possibly requiring the surgeon to remove more tissues. The additional operation is called a re-excision. If the surgeon cannot remove enough tissue to get “clear” margins, a mastectomy may become necessary.
A mastectomy describes the surgery involving the removal of the entire breast and, sometimes, nearby tissue. For a simple mastectomy, the entire breast is removed, but not surrounding lymph nodes under the arm or the muscle underneath the breast. Sometimes, both breasts are removed, particularly when the mastectomy was performed to prevent cancer.
Variations of the surgery may be performed to preserve skin around the breast or the nipple for breast reconstruction.
Two other forms of mastectomy—modified radical and radical—are less common now, but involve the removal of the entire breast, some or all lymph nodes under the arm and the chest wall muscles under the breast. These operations may still be completed if large tumors have grown into the chest muscles.
Lymph Node Surgery
When undergoing breast surgery for cancer, the surgeon may perform a procedure on the lymph nodes to ensure that cancer has not spread. For an axillary lymph node dissection, some lymph nodes under the arm are removed. If these nodes contain cancer, there is a higher chance that cancer cells have entered the blood stream and spread to other parts of the body.
A possible side effect of removing these nodes is lymphedema, a condition that can cause the arm to swell.
For a sentinel lymph node biopsy, a radioactive substance or dye is injected near the tumor, which will then be carried through lymph system to the first or sentinel node. A pathologist examines the nodes, and, if they contain cancer, the surgeon removes them.
Breast Reconstruction Surgery
Breast reconstruction uses one of several plastic surgery techniques to restore a breast to normal shape, size and appearance after a mastectomy. Breast reconstruction typically entails several procedures performed over several months. The process may begin at the same time as a mastectomy or may be delayed until the completion of any additional cancer treatment, such as radiation therapy.
The techniques used for breast reconstruction include:
- Flap technique: The surgeon uses muscle, fat and skin from a woman’s abdomen to reconstruct the breast. A breast implant is often an additional element to the reconstruction.
- Tissue expansion: Healthy skin is stretched slowly to provide space for a breast implant. Tissue expansion allows for easier recovery, but the procedure takes four to six months and requires several office visits.
There are some risks associated with breast reconstruction. The risks, while rare, include:
- Change in breast sensation
- Implant rupture