After a breast cancer diagnosis, surgery is one of the first and most common treatments. There are many different types of breast surgeries that may be recommended depending on the specific staging and location of your cancer.
Regardless of the surgery you have or will undergo, it can result in both physical and emotional changes that impact physical health, body image, and overall wellbeing. Breast Rehab can help with the many impacts of breast surgery by utilizing various therapies.
Breast Rehab therapists can treat many issues that arise from breast cancer surgery. Physiotherapy, massage therapy, kinesiology and acupuncture provide both mobility and pain relief. Incision management and laser therapy prevent scar adhesion, while skin care prevents possible infection. Fitness—including cardio exercise, strength training, and flexibility—helps to improve range of motion and overall health, and aids in recovery. A well fitting bra or prosthesis helps accommodate your new breast shape, size, and feel, as well as skin and scar sensitivity. Psychotherapy can help support your mental health and emotional wellbeing throughout all stages of your cancer journey.
Because we recognize that breast surgery affects you as a whole person, Breast Rehab offers a range of therapies and work with you to design an individual treatment plan to meet your specific needs. The language of breast surgery and its various options can be daunting.
The following is a comprehensive (but by no means complete) overview of the most common types of breast surgery.
A woman with breast cancer may require either a lumpectomy (removal of the tumour from the breast, also called a partial mastectomy) or unilateral mastectomy (removal of the whole breast). Removal of the breast itself is a simple (or total) mastectomy. If lymph nodes are also removed from under the arm, it is a complex mastectomy, regardless of whether one or two nodes are removed (sentinel lymph node biopsy) or all nodes in the area are taken out (axillary lymph node dissection).
When a woman has both breasts removed at the same time, the surgery is a bilateral mastectomy (or double mastectomy). If a woman has cancer in one breast, she may want to have the healthy breast removed as well, resulting in a therapeutic mastectomy (removal of the breast with cancer) and a contralateral prophylactic mastectomy (removal of the healthy breast). It may happen that a woman has a unilateral therapeutic mastectomy and chooses to have a contralateral prophylactic mastectomy at a later time.
A woman at high risk of cancer, due to a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, may choose to have her breasts removed in order to reduce the chance of developing cancer. This surgery is called a preventative mastectomy (also called breast prophylactic surgery). Usually in this situation, a woman will have both breasts removed at the same time.
If a woman has had one or both breasts removed, either for cancer or prevention, she may opt for breast reconstruction surgery. Occasionally, reconstruction may also be performed after a lumpectomy in order to achieve symmetry with the remaining breast. If the reconstruction takes place at the same time the breast is removed, it is immediate reconstruction; if it is done later, it is known as delayed reconstruction. There are different options for both immediate and delayed reconstructive surgeries. The reconstruction may be done with an implant device, or with tissue (and sometimes skin) taken from other parts of the body.
A woman who has had one or both breasts removed may choose not to have reconstruction. She may wear a prosthesis (or two prostheses). She may decide to live without the breast(s). There is no specific medical term for this option; it is referred to as either a unilateral mastectomy without reconstruction or a bilateral mastectomy without reconstruction (colloquially known as “going flat”).
At Breast Rehab, our therapists have extensive experience working with most issues that arise from breast surgery and other breast treatments. Together, we’ll get you back to doing what you love!