Breast Cancer Surgery
Breast cancer surgery is usually the first step in breast cancer treatment after a breast cancer diagnosis. Clinic Helena is a Finnish private clinic specialising in breast cancer treatment. The clinic’s professional and caring staff takes care of patients’ individual care needs throughout the treatment path.
For us, it is important that you are happy with your body image, even after breast cancer surgery. Therefore, we pay special attention to maintaining and even improving the breast shape both during our cancer surgeries as well as breast reconstruction surgeries. With plastic surgical methods (so-called oncoplastic surgery) we can radically remove even large breast tumors and remodel the shape of the breast to almost the same as it was before the surgery.
At Clinic Helena, you are never alone. Our experienced and caring nursing staff is always present and available to ensure you receive all the help and support you need in all your concerns. With more than 20 years of experience, our breast cancer nurse Anneli knows the answers to most of the questions one might have when facing a new, even frightening situation in life.
At Clinic Helena, you can quickly get a consultation with our breast cancer specialist Helena Puonti, regardless of the country you live in. After a diagnosis, the operating surgeon will discuss all the possible treatment options with you and make a surgery plan that takes into account the size and shape of the tumor and breast and your individual preferences. We will arrange for the surgical treatment to happen as quickly as possible, carefully taking into account your own life situation.
Breast-conserving cancer surgery or breast removal? It depends on the stage of the disease.
Before breast cancer surgery, the surgeon will assess whether the breast cancer can be operated on with a breast-conserving method or whether the breast needs to be removed (mastectomy). The most important thing to consider when choosing the right surgery method is to make sure that the entire cancerous tumor can be removed so that there is no need for additional surgeries.
The patient comes to the clinic for the breast cancer surgery usually on the morning of the day of surgery and after the procedure, we monitor the patient closely in the recovery room overnight. Breast cancer surgery is not performed under local anesthesia but under general anesthesia. A typical surgery usually lasts 2-3 hours.
Quick Examinations and Treatment
If you have already been diagnosed with breast cancer or if, on the basis of your symptoms, you suspect it, you can access Helena Puonti’s consultation quickly and without a referral.
Why choose Clinic Helena:
- World-class expertise in breast cancer treatment, using the most modern methods.
- Helena Puonti’s unique Sensing Breast-method – available only at Clinic Helena.
- We devote ourselves to helping You recover completeley from your illness.
Breast Conserving Surgery
In Finland, breast cancer occurrences are often found at an early stage, thanks to the Finnish breast cancer screening program. When the cancer is found early, the breast can usually be operated on conserving the breast. This surgery method for breast cancer is called resection. In 2017, a breast-conserving cancer surgery was performed on 75 percent of our patients.
In breast-conserving surgery, only the tumour in the breast with a healthy tissue margin around it is removed to ensure that all individual cancer cells have been removed. The radicality (clear margins around a tumour and absence of cancer cells in the edges of the remaining tissue) of the operation is confermed by radiological and pathological examinations of the removed tissue (preparation) in the operating room and afterwards by a pathologist.
Breast Removal (Mastectomy)
Breast removal (mastectomy) can be necessary when the tumour is very large in proportion to the breast size or if it is multifocular. We recommend that breast cancer gene (BRCA1 & BRCA2) carriers also go through breast removal.
If we need to remove the breast, we can still spare the skin of the breast area. We can add an expander below the pectoral muscle, all while in cancer treatment. Once the incisions have healed the expander can then be gradually filled to restore the size of the breast.
In some cases, depending on the size and location of a tumour, we can save the nipple too. We perform the final breast reconstruction after the patient has recovered from her disease.
It is possible to perform an immediate breast reconstruction during the removal in selected cases too. Sometimes we also correct the size of the healthy breast to get optimal symmetry. We would do this while performing the radical resection and remodelling of the breast in case of big tumours.
Sentinel Node Examination
Sentinel node examination in the armpit is an integral part of breast cancer surgery.
Before surgery, we examine whether there are any indications in the armpit that cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. Modern breast cancer treatment seeks to avoid unnecessary removal of arterial nodules, while previously it was performed on almost all breast cancer patients. If a cancer metastasis is found in more than three lymph nodes in the sentinel nodes, we remove the axillary lymph nodes more extensively.
Previously, the sentinel nodes were sent into frozen section analysis during surgery. Today, the pathologist carefully examines the removed sentinel nodes after surgery. If, after surgery, the disease is found to be more extensive than expected, extensive removal of the axillary lymph nodes is performed at a secondary operation. This is rarely required.
Postoperative Patient Care
After breast cancer surgery, the patient spends one night in the hospital under supervision. The next day, the patient is discharged from the hospital and is able to return home or to the hotel to recover. A drain is usually left in the incision area to collect any liquid output from the wound. The drain is kept in place even after discharge and is removed when the output is less than 40-50 ml per day. Stitches are removed 8 days after surgery.
Pain after breast cancer surgery is possible, and often the doctor prescribes painkillers. They should be taken regularly for a 1 to 4 days period and thereafter only if necessary.
We recommend our patients stay in Savonlinna for about one week after the operation. The patients can visit the outpatient clinic as often as needed during their stay in Savonlinna.
Post-operative blood leakage of the surgical site is always possible, although it is rare. Any leakage usually occurs the night after surgery while the patient is still at the hospital under supervision. If this happens, we remove any clots (hematomas) in a new operation. Treatment for such potential complications is included in the cost of the surgery, as is other aftercare.
Wound inflammation is a very rare complication. Wound inflammation treatment within a week from the operation is also included in the price of the surgery. Our breast cancer nurses are always available after surgery and the surgeon will take care that the is wound healing properly. If you have any questions, you should contact us promptly so that you can get the help you need as quickly as possible.
Recovering from the Surgery
Recovery from breast cancer surgery is individual and takes its own time. Your doctor will usually prescribe 4-5 weeks of sick leave for you to recover from the surgery.
Fluid (seroma) may accumulate in the surgical site, which should be emptied by a puncture. Heavy exercise and excessive sweating should be avoided until the surgical wounds have healed properly.
It is important to start exercising the hand on the operated side of the body immediately after the surgery. Painkillers will help you move the upper arm well.
Mood swings and worries about the future are quite common. Talking about any concerns makes receiving proper help easier. We can arrange peer support and sometimes, it may be worth considering professional help.
The goal is to gradually return to normal daily life during sick leave. Exercise, good nutrition, and peaceful sleep are the most effective ways to gain back your strength.
We organise tailor-made rehabilitation in Kruunupuisto Health Resort for every stage of breast cancer. You can read more about our rehabilitation options here!
Oncological Treatment After Surgery
Treatment for breast cancer after surgery usually continues with oncological treatment, which is aimed to begin one month after the surgery. Oncological treatment may include cytostatic therapy, radiotherapy, and hormonal therapy.
In some cases, cytostatic therapy, or chemotherapy, is given before surgery, for example, to treat inflammatory breast cancer. Also in the so-called triple-negative breast cancer, cytostatic therapy may be initiated prior to surgery.
During oncology treatments, it is important to avoid infections as the drug treatments temporarily weaken our resistance. Exercise is good for improving blood circulation, but it is recommended to avoid strenuous exercise during treatments.
However, during cytostatic and radiotherapy, you can move according to your own well-being and overall condition. It is a good idea to discuss the appropriate form of exercise with your oncologist.
Breast Reconstruction after Breast Cancer Surgery
A new breast can be rebuilt once breast cancer treatments have been cleared, usually about 2 years after breast cancer surgery.
Our internationally recognized plastic surgeon Helena Puonti has developed the Sensing Breast method. In addition to the beautiful shape of the new breast, she can restore the sensation to the rebuilt breast thanks to the connection of nerves. Clinic Helena offers breast reconstruction for all suitable breast cancer patients.