A woman in hospital bed holding a child's hand

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.

Last Updated: 4 January, 2024 12:39 pm

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.

  • What type of surgery is best for me?
  • Do I have a choice in the type of surgery I can have?
  • Can I have some time to think about what I want to do? How long?
  • What will surgery involve?
  • Do you specialise in breast cancer surgery? Can you refer me to someone who does?
  • Can I be treated as a public patient?
  • Can I talk to other women who have been through what you are recommending I do?
  • Where will the scars be and what will they look like?
  • How long will I be in hospital?
  • How long will I need to be away from work?
  • How long will I take to recover?
  • What side effects can I expect from the surgery I am having?
  • How much will the surgery cost me?
  • Will lymphoedema be a problem for me?
  • What can I do to enhance my recovery?
  • Will I be able to exercise after surgery?
  • Can you suggest useful ways for me to get back into physical activity after surgery?

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.

Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (AUS)

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 Inc. (AUS)

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.

Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (AUS)

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.

Cancer Council Victoria - 'Breast cancer - Surgery' 2022 (AUS)

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.

Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) - My Journey online tool

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.

Westmead Breast Cancer Institute - 'Surgery for Early Breast Cancer' brochure 2020 (AUS)

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.

Breast Cancer Network Australia - Types of surgery 2023 (AUS)

This page on the website of Breast Cancer Network Australia's website explains the different kinds of surgery for breast cancer.

Breastcancer.Org - Surgery 2023 (US)

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.

Breast Cancer Now - Surgery 2022 (UK)

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.

Surgery - Cancer Survivor Guide 2018 (AUS)

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.

Counterpart - Scars, cording & swelling: recovery after breast cancer surgery 2020 (AUS)

In this webinar, a physiotherapist and lymphoedema practitioner, shares information and practical tips for managing scars, cording and swelling following breast cancer surgery.

This is a list of hard copy resources such as books and CDs that are not readily available online.

The Complete Guide to Breast Cancer: How to Feel Empowered and Take Control 2018 (UK)

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.

Vermillion, 2018

Beauty After Breast Cancer (US)

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

Breast Cancer - Taking Control (AUS)

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. (US)

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 (formerly BreaCan) (AUS)

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.