What is a Quadrantectomy?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

During a quadrantectomy, the surgeon removes cancerous breast tissue while leaving healthy tissue intact.
During a quadrantectomy, the surgeon removes cancerous breast tissue while leaving healthy tissue intact.

A quadrantectomy is a surgical procedure performed to remove cancerous tissue from a breast while conserving as much breast tissue as possible. One "quadrant" of the breast is removed to take out the cancer along with a margin of healthy tissue. This procedure is an example of a breast conserving surgery and may be available as an alternative to a full mastectomy, where the entire breast is removed, for some women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Quadrantectomies remove more tissue than is taken during a breast lumpectomy, while preserving as much of the breast as possible. These procedures are performed under general anesthesia. The surgeon will remove the cancerous tumor along with an approximately one inch (roughly three centimeter) margin of tissue around the tumor. The skin over the tumor will be excised and the surgeon will also take out some of the underlying muscle tissue. If necessary, neighboring lymph nodes can be taken out as well.

When the patient recovers from the surgery, the shape and size of the breast will be distorted. Patients have several options for managing a breast after quadrantectomy. One option is to wear padded bras. Bras can be specially designed to accommodate a woman's specific breast shape and provide padding for a more natural appearance. It is also possible to have plastic surgery to change the shape and size of the breast after a quadrantectomy. If it is safe to do so, this surgery should be performed before starting chemotherapy and radiation, as the patient's body will not be able to recover from surgery as readily while undergoing these treatments.

Breast conserving surgeries like the quadrantectomy are often used in preference to full mastectomies. Recovering from such surgeries is less physically and emotionally traumatic. If a doctor believes it will be possible to preserve breast tissue while also adequately treating breast cancer, a procedure like a lumpectomy or quadrantectomy may be recommended to the patient. However, if a tumor is especially large or invasive, a doctor may recommend removal of the entire breast as the best treatment option.

When exploring treatments for breast cancer, women may want to talk to several oncologists to get a complete picture of treatment options. Doctors are happy to answer questions about recovery times, treatment alternatives, what to expect during treatment, and what kind of prognosis a patient has. Having all of this information can help patients make informed choices about their breast cancer treatment.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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