Breast Cancer Surgery

At Virginia Mason Hospital & Seattle Medical Center, women and men with breast cancer benefit from the combined expertise of breast surgeons, plastic surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and other specialized providers and staff to provide seamless care throughout their medical treatment.

  • Contact Virginia Mason's Breast Cancer Nurse Coordinator, in Seattle, Washington, at (206) 223-8862 to make an appointment or learn more about your options for breast cancer surgery.

Fortunately, women have more options for surgical treatment than ever before. For years, radical mastectomy (removal of the breast, underarm lymph nodes and chest muscles) was the main operation for breast cancer.

New breast cancer treatments video
Q13 Fox News reports on Virginia Mason's IORT clinical trial.

Today, there are several types of surgery. The most common procedures performed at Virginia Mason include the following:

Intraoperative Radiation Therapy (IORT)

Virginia Mason, in Seattle, Washington, is the first medical center in Washington state to offer intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT) to treat women with early stage breast cancer. Radiation therapy helps prevent breast cancer recurrence by eliminating microscopic cancer cells following treatment with surgery. The standard method of radiation therapy requires daily radiation to the whole breast for a total of three to six weeks, and even newer partial-breast irradiation techniques require 10 treatments over five days. Learn more about IORT >>.

Breast Conserving Surgery

The major advantage of having oncoplastic surgery is having the ability to remove cancer without leaving a disfiguring defect in the breast. After thorough tumor removal, the surgeon reshapes the remaining breast tissue to try to maintain the shape and contour of the breast. This not only achieves a normal-appearing breast shape after lumpectomy but can often improve the appearance of the breast, without the use of artificial implants or transplanted tissue. Learn more about breast conserving surgery >>

Sentinel Node Biopsy

Traditionally, axillary node dissection has been performed to check the lymph nodes under the arm for cancer. An average of 10 to 20 nodes is removed. One of the most significant complications of this operation is lymphedema, a sometimes painful and disfiguring swelling of the arm.

With sentinel lymph node biopsy, usually only one or two nodes are removed, so the surgery is less invasive, has fewer complications, and allows a quicker recovery. This procedure can be performed along with either lumpectomy or mastectomy.

Skin-Sparing Mastectomy

During this procedure, the surgeon removes the breast tissue and nipple with a small rim of skin, leaving as much skin as possible so that breast reconstruction can be performed with a better cosmetic result.

Nipple-Sparing Mastectomy

With this operation, the breast is removed but the skin and nipple remain, allowing a better cosmetic result with reconstruction.

Partial Mastectomy/Lumpectomy

This surgery allows the surgeon to save as much of the breast as possible. Only the tumor and some healthy surrounding tissue are removed. This surgery is indicated for women with small tumors who also are eligible for radiation therapy.

Simple (Total) Mastectomy

During this surgery the entire breast, nipple and some skin are removed. This surgery is performed when the tumor is too large for a lumpectomy, when there is cancer in more than one area of the breast, for patients who cannot or will not have radiation therapy, or for men with breast cancer.

Modified Radical Mastectomy (Total Mastectomy With Axillary Lymph Node Dissection)

During this procedure, breast and underarm lymph nodes are removed but the chest muscle is left intact.