This Navigator topic is your stepping stone to finding quality, current information from a range of reputable sources on surgical options for treating early breast cancer.
It is aimed at women recently diagnosed with early breast cancer who may be faced with making decisions about what sort of surgery is right for them. When faced with making these decisions, it helps to have the best information available and to take the time to discuss available options with your health care professionals.
WARNING: Because of the nature of the topic of this Navigator, the links may contain material which may be anatomically explicit, and include photographs of surgical procedures, and patient’s surgical scars after mastectomy. It may contain material that may be upsetting to you. Please consider this before viewing the links.
Types of surgery
If you have been diagnosed with early breast cancer, you may have to decide between having a:
The type of breast surgery recommended for you will depend on a number of factors including:
You may have a choice about the type of surgery to have. In helping you make a decision, you can find it helpful to:
Talking to someone who’s been there can be a great source of information and support:
Whatever you decide, you don’t have to be rushed into treatment.
You may also need to make a decision about the lymph nodes in your arm pit. This is often the first place that breast cancer will spread outside the breast.
The resources in this Navigator topic will help you to understand the different surgical choices for dealing with lymph glands in your arm pit. The aim of surgery to lymph nodes is to:
The removal of lymph nodes can place you at increased risk of developing a condition called lymphoedema, which includes swelling in the breast and or arm. The Navigator topic on Lymphoedema will help you find more information about the condition.
The purpose of this Navigator is to guide you to information about surgical treatment options for early breast cancer. It does not constitute an endorsement of the information contained in the resources. This information is not meant to be comprehensive, but rather to provide a starting point to information seeking.
When making decisions about surgical treatment for breast cancer, you may wish to consider the following questions. These questions may help you decide about your treatment options. You might want the answers to some of the questions straight away, while some may become important later on. You can either ask these questions directly to your breast surgeon or other medical specialist, or use them as a guide to put together your own questions.
These listings provide links to the websites of organisations relevant to decision making around surgery for the treatment of breast cancer. The link will direct you to the organisation’s home page where you can search their site independently.
The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) is a non-profit organisation training surgeons and maintaining surgical standards in Australia and New Zealand. The website includes a “Find a Surgeon” guide.
Breast Surgeons of Australia and New Zealand Incorporated (BreastSurgANZ) is the primary group of surgeons treating patients with breast disease, benign and malignant, in Australia and New Zealand. The website includes a “Find a Surgeon” guide.
The peak body for Specialist Plastic Surgeons (both reconstructive and cosmetic). The website includes a “Find a Surgeon”guide.
This list provide links to key pieces of evidence-based information about surgery for early breast cancer. The list includes downloadable fact sheets, pamphlets, or PDFs and web pages.
This page explains treatments used for different types of breast cancer, including surgery. Buttons at the bottom of the page lead to the booklet 'Understanding breast cancer' listed below.
Find the section on Surgery on pages 28 – 39.
Formerly the My Journey Kit, this tool is now online. Sign up to access information that can be tailored to your own situation. Find information on a range of topics including treatment and decision making.
This booklet covers information on breast conservation (lumpectomy), mastectomy, and lymph node surgery. There are also several other good brochures on related topics including sentinel node biopsy, wound care, and guide-wire localised breast surgery.
This page on the website of Breast Cancer Network Australia's website explains the different kinds of surgery for breast cancer.
This web page has a an overview of surgical options for breast cancer, with links to further information. Keep in mind that this is a US website, so contact numbers and some information are not applicable to Australians.
This page on the website of Breast Cancer UK, a peak breast cancer charity in the UK, has information on different surgeries available and issues to consider in deciding which one is right for you. It also includes information on preparing for surgery and recovery.
Episode 2 of this podcast series discusses how surgeons decide when to operate, how techniques have changed and improved over time, and what to expect when you meet your surgeon.
A physiotherapist and lymphoedema practitioner, shares information and practical tips for managing scars, cording and swelling following breast cancer surgery. Webinar, 2020
This is a list of hard copy resources such as books and CDs that are not readily available online.
Professor Trish Greenhalgh and Dr Liz O'Riordan both have medical backgrounds, and were both diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015. This book describes the experiences from diagnosis to life after treatment, with their unique personal experiences.
This joyful and positive book was created by women who have experienced breast cancer, and provides the information they wish they had had access to when they were diagnosed. Features full-colour images, and can be searched by specific procedures. Available in the Counterpart Resource Centre. Not for loan.
Carey K and Linaschke J, 2015
This book discusses Information on finding the right doctor and treatment team and understanding the different types of surgery relevant to breast cancer. It includes helpful decision making pathways regarding the type of surgery that might best suit you. Available in the Counterpart Resource Centre. Not for loan.
Boyages J, Boycare Publishing, 2010
This list directs you to websites containing personal stories in both written and visual format about people's experiences of breast cancer surgery. The information reflects the personal experiences of individuals and does not constitute evidence-based research or information.
Because of the nature of the topic of this Navigator, the following information may contain material that is anatomically explicit, and include photographs of surgical procedures and patient’s surgical scars after mastectomy. It may contain material that may be upsetting or offensive to you. Please consider this before viewing the links.
Short video of Judy Pippen discussing her experience of mastectomy. She aimed to show women images of 'whole women' post-surgery, rather than the clinical images of torsos. Includes links to Jude's blog 'Pipsky's Blog'.
This website contains a photographic essay of women’s scars following mastectomy for breast cancer. It includes photographs of women who have chosen to reconstruct and those who have not.
Counterpart is a unique free information and support service for Victorian women living with breast or gynaecological cancers. You can speak with trained peer support volunteers who have experienced cancer themselves.
Know a personal story we could share? Give feedback below.