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During the Procedure
First, the doctor cleans the involved breast, chest, and upper arm. The surgeon then makes an incision over the targeted malignancy or around the areola if the tumor is accessible from that site, and cuts out the tumor, along with a small layer of tissue surrounding the tumor. The goal of the surgery is to remove the tumor and marginal tissue while damaging the breast as little as possible. However, the surgeon needs to remove enough testable tissue to determine if the cancer is limited to the tumor itself or if the cancer has spread.
The surgeon may make a separate incision near the underarm to sample or to remove axillary lymph nodes, which are then tested for cancerous cells. The findings of these tests help the doctor determine if the cancer has spread from the breast to other parts of the body. The following are types of surgery that may be used to sample or remove axillary lymph nodes:
The surgeon then stops the bleeding and irrigates the wound. A drainage tube may be inserted during the surgery and removed later. The wound is usually closed with stitches that will eventually dissolve. Bandages are applied to the site of the surgery.
The entire procedure typically takes one to three hours.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/24/2014
Leigh A Neumayer, MD, MS, FACS
Marga Massey, MD
Galen Poole, MD, FACS
Mary L Windle, PharmD
Lee P Shulman, MD
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