What Is Oncoplastic Surgery?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 28 June 2019
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Oncoplastic surgery combines removal of cancerous tumors with plastic surgery to address aesthetic concerns. This term is usually used specifically in reference to breast cancer surgery, where patients may be worried about the appearance of the chest after lumpectomy, partial mastectomy, or full mastectomy. Special training is necessary to perform oncoplastic surgery correctly, because it balances a number of needs and must be done in a way that does not compromise patient care.

The first priority for breast cancer surgery is successfully removing the tumor and a margin of tissue to ensure no cancer cells are left behind. In oncoplastic surgery, part of the surgical planning includes a discussion on how to do this with minimal damage to the breast while still accomplishing the surgical bottom line. After the tumor is removed, the surgeon or a colleague who specializes in plastics can move on to the next phase of the procedure, which addresses aesthetic issues.


Surgeons can work on the breast with cancer to even the shape and size, and they can also reduce the other breast to make it match. Patients can discuss their desired outcome before the procedure and this information can be used to achieve balanced, aesthetically pleasing breasts. One advantage of oncoplastic surgery is that breast appearance is even after the initial surgery, without having to wait for a second procedure to address physical changes caused by tumor removal. This can reduce feelings of discomfort in social settings as people recover.

It does come with some disadvantages that should be weighed carefully before proceeding, because the procedure is not right for all patients. Patients may lose sensation and sensitivity in both breasts as a result of the tumor removal and breast reduction. The nipple may need to be relocated, and the patient will not be able to breastfeed in the future. A surgeon can provide information about the risks and benefits of oncoplastic surgery before the procedure to help the patient make an informed choice. Working with a doctor who specializes in these kinds of procedures can also be helpful.

Patients should also be aware that treating the cancer is the most important aspect of their care. It may not always be possible to complete a planned oncoplastic surgery if there are concerns about the impact it might have on cancer treatment. In these situations, patients may need to wait for a follow-up surgery to address aesthetic issues, after receiving treatment for the cancer. Plastic surgeons usually do not want to compromise cancer treatment by rushing or proceeding with a potentially unsafe procedure.



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