Basics on Breast Cancer Surgery Called Quadrantectomy

Definition and Recovery of a Breast Conserving Surgery

Surgeons wearing magnifying glasses in operating room
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The majority of women will undergo some type of surgery when diagnosed with breast cancer —either a form of breast-conserving surgery or a mastectomy. Quadrantectomy is one type of breast-conserving surgery.

Let's learn more about what a quadrantectomy is, and what it means for your recovery.

What is a Quadrantectomy?

A quadrantectomy is one type of breast cancer surgery. It is also called a partial, or segmental mastectomy.

A quadrantectomy requires the removal of more breast tissue than a lumpectomy, but still leaves most of your breast intact. Most women receive radiation if they opt for this surgery.

What Happens During a Quadrantectomy?

During a quadrantectomy, your surgeon removes one-quarter of your breast. Your surgeon will take out the tumor and 2 to 3 centimeters of surrounding breast tissue, to be sure that the margins around the tumor are clear of cancer. Skin that is lying over that quarter of your breast also will be removed, and some of the muscle of the chest wall, beneath the tumor, also may need to be taken out. The lymph nodes that are closest to the tumor will be removed and tested for cancer cells, as will your tumor, skin and the tissue around the tumor. You may need a surgical drain to help with healing after surgery.

Dealing with a New Shape

A quadrantectomy will change the size and shape of your breast.

After you recover, you may want to put some additional padding in your bra to balance your appearance. You also may wish to have a plastic surgeon remodel the breast into a smaller size with a natural shape, and this is best done before starting any other treatments, such as radiation or chemotherapy.

Radiation will change the texture of the skin in the surgery area, and during chemotherapy your body may not have the resources to heal properly from surgery. The skin at the incision will have a scar, and will change in texture, but if you care for the incision, it will fade into a small line with time.

Regaining Symmetry

After surgery, your breasts will no longer be a matched pair. If you want to balance the size of your post-surgical breast with your unaffected breast, you might consider having a breast reduction done on the healthy breast. This would also balance the weight of your breasts on your chest and back muscles.

Final Thought

It's interesting to note that even though quadrantectomy removes more breast tissue than lumpectomy, a 2005 study in World Journal of Surgery did not find a difference in breast cancer recurrence between the two surgeries. 

Sources:

American Cancer Society. (2015). Breast Cancer: Surgery for breast cancer. Retrieved October 12th 2015. 

Noh WC. Ipsilateral breast tumor recurrence after breast-conserving therapy: A comparison of quadrantectomy versus lumpectomy at a single institution. World J Surg. 2005 Aug;29(8):1001-6.

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