A breast biopsy is the removal of cells or tissue from a suspicious mass. The tissue or cells are then examined under a microscope to check for breast cancer cells. A biopsy may be performed when an abnormal finding in the breast is discovered during a mammogram, ultrasound or physical examination. A biopsy is the only way to determine if a potential trouble spot is malignant (cancerous) or benign.
A mastectomy is surgery to remove of a whole breast. In the past, a radical mastectomy with complete removal of the breast was the standard treatment for breast cancer. However, surgical breakthroughs over the past two decades have given women more options than ever before. For some women, less invasive breast-conserving therapy may be equally effective as a mastectomy for treating breast cancer.
The type of mastectomy and treatment for breast cancer depends on several key factors, including:
- general health
- menopause status
- tumor size
- tumor stage (how far it has spread)
- tumor grade (aggressiveness)
- tumor’s hormone receptor status
- whether or not lymph nodes are involved
Lumpectomy (Breast Conservation Treatment)
Lumpectomy is a form of “breast-conserving” or “breast preservation” surgery. There are several names used for breast-conserving surgery: biopsy, lumpectomy, partial mastectomy, re-excision, quadrantectomy, or wedge resection. Technically, a lumpectomy is a partial mastectomy because part of the breast tissue is removed. However, the amount of tissue removed can vary greatly. Quadrantectomy, for example, means that roughly a quarter of your breast will be removed. Make sure you have a clear understanding from your surgeon about how much of your breast may be gone after surgery and what kind of scar you will have.
Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy
Lymph node biopsy and dissection has two main purposes: It removes the breast cancer that may have spread into the armpit (axilla), and it allows the surgeon to stage your cancer by learning how far the cancer has spread. In a sentinel node biopsy, a special blue dye and/or a radioactive substance is first injected into the breast in the region of the tumor to determine which lymph nodes are the first to receive drainage from the breast. These nodes would potentially be the first to be invaded by cancer cells. One to three sentinel nodes are usually removed and tested for cancer. Studies show sentinel node biopsy is just as accurate as axillary node dissection in diagnosing cancer, and has fewer complications.
Axillary Lymph Node Dissection
Axillary node dissection involves removing at least six of the lymph nodes under the arm. These nodes are then sent to a lab where they are checked for cancer. Axillary node dissection is a very reliable way to check the extent of your cancer, but it has a longer recovery and poses complications such as lymphedema (swelling of the arm) or nerve damage compared to sentinel node biopsy.
Fibroadenomas, a common benign breast lump, can be removed through a lumpectomy. However, you could just tell your pesky fibroadenoma to take a permanent chill. Cryoablation may be used to eliminate those lumps by freezing them with a technology called Visica 2TMTreatment System. Approved by the FDA in 2001, Visica uses intense cold to destroy the fibroadenoma.
Undergoing cryoablation treatment won’t slow you down much at all. This procedure can be done right in our office, instead of an unfamiliar hospital. From start to finish, the whole process will take just about 30 minutes. You won’t have a big surgical dressing, and you won’t be woozy from anesthetic. If you’re curious about the procedure itself, here’s a full description of cryoablation of a fibroadenoma.
Cryoablation removes no tissue, so the shape of your breast is not distorted. The 3 mm scar will soon heal and fade, and because the insertion cut is so small, your risk of infection is lower than for a standard surgical procedure. There are no hospital visits, which keeps your overall medical costs lower. Recovery is fast — in fact, you can return to normal activities immediately and participate in sports 3 or 4 days later. You will have some bruising, and may need to take Tylenol for any discomfort you have during recovery.