Surgical options for breast cancer

by Hennepin Healthcare

Almost everyone knows someone who has experienced breast cancer. Terms like “mastectomy” and “lumpectomy” may be familiar, but when are these procedures necessary, and how do they increase the chances of beating cancer?

In this week’s Healthy Matters podcast surgeon Dr. Joan VanCamp talks about surgical treatments for breast cancer including mastectomy, lumpectomy and aftercare.

“Most women who choose lumpectomy instead of mastectomy will be candidates for radiation treatment and that helps prevent recurrence of cancer in that same breast,” explains Dr. Van Camp.  “People respond different to radiation, and for most women there is a little bit of skin irritation, but it’s minor and within weeks to months after the radiation treatments there’s minimal changes.”

Whether or not chemotherapy is needed after surgical treatment is a separate discussion. “Chemotherapy is not a local treatment, it’s a total body treatment. It treats the cells that might have escaped into the liver or the lungs,  therefore the decision of lumpectomy or mastectomy does not really affect the decision on whether or not chemotherapy would be helpful.”

“The good news is that we are pretty successful. About 80-85% of women in general we see are treated or cured or at least controlled very well with the treatments we have.”

For more information about Hennepin County Medical Center’s Comprehensive Cancer Center, visit