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Talk Tuesday, Ep. 6: Breast Cancer Surgery

November 12, 2020

Stefanie (00:00):

The information presented in this podcast is offered for educational purposes, only presenting it is not intended to and does not create a provider-patient relationship between any presenter and anyone else about the medical topics addressed presenters provide general information only not diagnosis or recommended treatments or any other information specific to any individual listeners are encouraged to see their own healthcare professional about all topics address on talk Tuesdays or for any other medical problem. [inaudible] welcome everyone. Thank you for joining us today. My name is Stefanie and I'm part of the team here at My Virtual Physician. We are a direct to consumer multi-specialty telemedicine provider operating in multiple States. It is Talk Tuesday and we are continuing our weekly educational series to talk with our experts, explore some common healthcare concerns that we see and hopefully answer some questions you may have today. Our physician expert is Dr. Coleman. She is a general surgeon, and today we are going to talk about breast cancer surgery. So thank you

Dr. Ginger Coleman (01:14):

Joining us today. Thanks for having me. Yeah. And welcome back. Okay. So after the biopsy, they told me that I have cancer. So now what, so there's a bunch of different types of cancer. So the first thing will depend on what kind of cancer you have and how big it is, and if lymph nodes are involved. So, so don't panic, there's, there's a lot of options for surgery and every option would be something that you would need to discuss with your personal physician and determine what the best course of action is for you and your particular type of cancer. But, but we'll discuss a couple common options. Um, there's something called breast conservation surgery also known as a lumpectomy or a partial mastectomy. So this is where a small ish incision is made. It's not necessarily right over where the area of cancer is. We try and hide the incisions.

Dr. Ginger Coleman (02:22):

So sometimes we may put it around the nipple. Sometimes we may put it and underneath the breast, sort of in the, in the fold, sometimes we gotta just make an incision across your skin and we try and hide it as best as we can, but it doesn't happen all the time. Essentially, once we make that incision, we remove a small portion of breast where the cancer is as well as some normal breast tissue surrounding it. And in order to do that, because if you had a lesion that wasn't palpable, it was just something abnormal seen on your mammogram. Obviously, we can't it in the, or so we have to have our radiologists localize it for us, what used to be done. And it's still done in a lot of places, but we're moving away from it is what's called a wire localization and you would go to mammography before surgery.

Dr. Ginger Coleman (03:20):

The radiologists would do another mammogram and they would find that area of concern. And then they stick a little wire into the lesion. So we're trying to get away from it because it's not real fun to be wheeled around the hospital with a wire sticking out of your breast, waiting to go to surgery. But that wire is directed to that area where you have cancer or the area of concern that needs to be removed. And they give us mammogram images to use in the operating room to make sure that we know where that is. So, so we'll excise that area more recently, they've moved to using things like radioactive seeds that can be placed by the radiologist and they can, they can be done a couple of days before surgery, some even up to a couple of weeks before surgery. So it's not something you have to come in that day and get done.

Dr. Ginger Coleman (04:10):

You can get it done kind of on your own time, leading up to surgery. And then in the operating room, we use a little, I call it the Geiger counter, but it's a little probe that beeps when you get close to the, the seed or, or whatever it is that they used, there's a whole bunch of different kinds. And, and so that helps locate the area of cancer. And then that gives us an idea and we remove that portion of tissue. And then, like I said, some normal breast tissue around it. And depending on the type of cancer you have will determine how much breast tissue we need to take. And depending on, you know, if you have DCIS or you have invasive cancer, that will also determine if we need to take any lymph nodes from your XLO also known as your armpit. Okay.

Dr. Ginger Coleman (04:59):

So then you said there were more than one type. So what's the other. Yes. And the other type is a mastectomy and that's where your whole breast is removed. There are different types of mastectomies. A simple mastectomy is probably what most people are familiar with. And that would be where all of your breast tissue and your nipple and areola are removed. And you have just a flat chest after that, on that side, there's something called a modified radical mastectomy. And that's a simple mastectomy, except during this operation, all of the lymph nodes in your Exela are removed that's surgery. There's some other mastectomies, a nipple-sparing mastectomy, and skin-sparing mastectomies that are also options. I won't really go into those, but, but really any mastectomy that's done can be followed with breastfeeding plastic surgeon, either during the same operation or at a later date. It all depends on the type of cancer you have and what other treatments that you need after surgery and understanding that there are risks and benefits of each type of surgery and what may be best for you may not be, you know, what you really desired to have done. There's if you need radiation after having a mastectomy, you don't really want to have reconstruction because you're not going to heal and you're going to have more problems and need more surgery. You may not have any complications, but do you want to risk it? So even after a mastectomy, you can get reconstruction, you can get it done that day, and we do that pretty frequently, but it all depends on you in particular, what's going on with you and what treatments that you need.

Stefanie (06:59):

Yeah. Um, so then you S you said lymph nodes. And can you talk to us a little bit about that or why they're removed?

Dr. Ginger Coleman (07:08):

Yeah. So your lymph nodes often are, are said to quote unquote, filter your blood. And so if you have breast cancer that is going to drain into your lymphatic system, and we'll go through those lymph nodes. And usually if you have breast cancer on the right side, you look in the right armpit for the lymph nodes and see if you can feel any that are, you know, big or thick and kind of mad at or anything. And even if they feel normal, it doesn't mean that there's not tumor in them. So if you find tumor in those lymph nodes, it's a sign of metastatic disease and it's more affiliated with invasive cancer. And so that's why it's important for us to evaluate the women, especially in invasive cancer. And you can do it in two ways. Again, there's two ways, there's something called a Sentinel lymph node biopsy, or you can have an auxiliary dissection.

Dr. Ginger Coleman (08:07):

So with a Sentinel lymph node biopsy, you can do this with either breast conservation or a mastectomy. If you do it with breast conservation, it's a separate incision, and it's not real big. We try and hide it in the, you know, one of the creases in your armpit or at the hairline, just to kind of hide the scar, but it is a separate incision. And we go through there to find the lymph nodes. If you do the lymph node biopsy with a mastectomy, it's all through the same incision. So you don't have two separate incisions prior to surgery. You usually go to a nuclear medicine department and get this radioactive tracer injected. And then in the operating room, we use a blue dye, methylene blue. I just often blue something and we inject and everyone does it a little bit different, but we always injected it underneath the nipple, or I'm sorry, underneath Ariel.

Dr. Ginger Coleman (09:03):

And then you do your surgery and, and the axilla is the last thing that you do. So by the time you get there, hopefully all that blue dye has made it swaying to your lymph nodes. And so we use that little Geiger counter thing again, and it helps you find that radioactive tracer, but then we're also looking for blue. So what we want to do is find the blue and radioactive lymph nodes and remove those. And the machine will give you a number and you want to take the highest number because that's theoretically the lymph node that drained first or the Sentinel node. And we usually take about three more or less. It kind of depends on what we see in there. If it's very obvious that all of your lymph nodes are involved, you may then end up with an axillary dissection and not just the Sentinel lymph node biopsy.

Dr. Ginger Coleman (09:57):

So an axillary dissection is actually where all of the lymph nodes are removed. Usually we do this with a mastectomy, so like the modified radical mastectomy, and it's all through the same incision. Sometimes you can do it after a lumpectomy or any other surgery that you've had, or Sentinel lymph node biopsy. If that biopsy came back with signs of invasive cancer that eat, that indicated you you'd need all of the lymph nodes removed. So then we would have to go back and do another operation, but usually we do it with a mastectomy. So it's all one surgery. And we just take out all of those lymph nodes. There are some nerves and blood vessels in the area that are important that we don't disrupt. They can cause some, you know, numbness or tingling of your arm or difficulty moving your shoulder, or even make your shoulder blades stick out.

Dr. Ginger Coleman (10:56):

But injuries to those nerves are not really common. Okay. So then you did your mastectomy or lumpectomy. So what happens after surgery? So depending on the type of surgery you had, you'll either go home that day or you'll stay overnight in the hospital. And usually nobody has to stay more than 23 hours or no more than a day. If you, if you had a lumpectomy and you don't have any serious medical conditions or anything that would be of concern, usually you just go home. So someone will, someone will need to drive you home. And we'll see you in clinic in a couple of weeks and let you know the pathology. If you had a mastectomy, you usually stay in the hospital, at least overnight, uh, you will have a drain or two, depending on if you had to have an axillary dissection or not. Um, and, and every surgeon is different with how they do it, but, but usually you will have at least wondering.

Dr. Ginger Coleman (11:58):

So we'll teach you how to take care of that. We keep you overnight to make sure that there's not a lot of bleeding out of the drain or anything that would be concerning to need to take you back surgery. Uh, if you do, okay, you go back home and then you see us in clinic and we'll take the drains out in clinic and talk about pathology. Uh, and, and if you haven't seen an oncologist already, we'll send you to one. Um, usually they're the ones that send you to us. So that's, that's usually pretty well organized, but that's when you would talk with them about the need for chemo or radiation. And sometimes if, you know, we do breast conservation surgery and maybe we didn't get all of the cancer, it'll be called, you know, you have positive margins. And so at that time, we would have to talk about going back for either re-excision of those areas that were positive and depending on your breast size and the type of cancer you have and all of that, it, it may end up being okay, well, now we need to talk about actually doing mastectomy because the pathology showed whatever it showed, but there is a possibility that you, that you would have to go back to surgery if you do breast conservation.

Dr. Ginger Coleman (13:15):

And it doesn't happen all the time, but it is, you know, one of the risks of trying to preserve the breast tissue.

Stefanie (13:23):

Um, thank you so much, dr. Coleman. I know it's a really hard topic to talk about. Cancer is always something that's pretty scary word. I appreciate you joining us for Talk Tuesday and telling us what we need to know about breast cancer screening and breast cancer surgery for everyone else. Joining us as well. This has been Talk Tuesdays with my virtual physician. You can schedule a consultation with one of our doctors by visiting our website at We look forward to seeing you again, and we hope you have a great week Nation presented in this podcast is offered for educational purposes, only presenting it is not intended to and does not create a provider-patient relationship between any presenter and anyone else about the medical topics addressed presenters provide general information only not diagnosis or recommended treatments or any other information specific to any individual listeners are encouraged to see their own healthcare professional about all topics address in Talk Tuesdays or for any other medical problems.

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