Comprehensive breast cancer surgery care

MedStar Health offers all of the diagnostic and breast cancer treatments you’d expect for men and women—plus some you might not. Treatment options are always supported or driven by the latest research and techniques in breast cancer surgery, including sophisticated offerings such as CyberKnife® radiation, targeted therapies, and minimally invasive endoscopic, laparoscopic, or robotic-assisted surgery. 

We have accreditation by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC). Our research partner, Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, is one of only 51 NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the country, delivering cutting-edge cancer treatments and signifying excellence and efforts in patient care, cancer research, patient education, and community outreach. We have also been recognized as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence.

Breast surgery team

From oncology nurses to surgeons, your MedStar healthcare team believes in treating the whole person, not just the disease, and will support you with the compassion you deserve and the excellence you expect every step of the way.

In addition to surgery, the Breast Center at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center offers access to over 16 breast cancer clinical trials in conjunction with the National Cancer Institute, and world pharmaceutical companies. The team works closely with the MedStar Health Research Institute Research coordinator and MedStar Cancer Registry to identify patients every week that may be eligible for specific clinical trials.

Genetic testing

Our clinical cancer geneticists can provide individualized risk assessments to determine the presence of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene.

Partial mastectomy/lumpectomy

A partial mastectomy (often called a lumpectomy) is the most common form of breast cancer surgery. It is a surgical procedure to remove a tumor from within your breast, as well as some tissue surrounding the tumor—it does not remove the entire breast, which is why it is considered a breast-conserving or -preserving surgery.

The size of the breast may be a bit smaller after a partial mastectomy. If needed, MedStar Health plastic surgeons will use oncoplastic techniques to restore symmetry and reduce the other side to match.

Following surgery, most women will have radiation therapy to reduce the risk of cancer returning. Chemotherapy, if needed, is initiated before the radiation treatment.

Axillary lymph node dissection

The lymphatic system includes the nodes, tissues, and organs that produce and store infection-fighting white blood cells, as well as lymph, the fluid that circulates throughout this system. In a properly functioning lymphatic system, your lymph nodes filter out the lymph, eliminating bacteria and other waste products—including cancer cells.

If cancer cells begin to travel through the lymphatic system, they can end up in the lymph nodes; in cancers that begin in the breast, the closest lymph nodes are in the armpit area—the axillary lymph nodes. If your doctor determines that your breast cancer has spread to these nodes, you will need an axillary dissection.

Most often, your surgeon will remove the Level I and II lymph nodes during this procedure. Generally, 45 lymph nodes are in the axilla and, on average, 10-20 are removed during the operation.

Sentinel lymph node biopsy

Sentinel lymph node biopsy is surgery to identify, remove, and microscopically examine the lymph nodes directly in the pathway of spreading cancer cells — to assess whether breast cancer has spread to lymph nodes under your arm, which are the most likely lymph nodes to contain cancer. Read more.

Breast cancer treatment in the news

Watch MedStar Health breast surgeons discuss breast cancer treatment options, including breast surgery, in the video below:

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Breast-conserving surgery: lumpectomy

During a lumpectomy (or partial mastectomy), a surgeon removes the tumor and some surrounding tissue, rather than the entire breast. It is the preferred choice when only one tumor is present. 

Following a lumpectomy, many women will need radiation therapy to ensure there are no remaining cancer cells. If chemotherapy is also needed, it generally starts before radiation.

Oncoplastic techniques

During lumpectomy, we carefully remove tumors with attention to achieving the best appearance possible. Although oncoplastic surgery is more complex, our surgeons are expert in restoring symmetry and appearance—preserving the breast’s form while matching its size as close as possible to the other side. 

While our breast surgeons and plastic surgeons often work together during these surgeries, some of our breast surgeons now have additional training in this specialized field and operate alone. 

Mastectomies that spare the nipple and skin

If you have a larger tumor or several tumors throughout your breast, you may need a mastectomy to remove the entire breast and, in some cases, nearby tissue and lymph nodes. 

You may also need a mastectomy if cancer returns after a lumpectomy and radiation. We strive not only to remove the cancer completely, but also to do so in a way to minimize the physical, emotional, and psychological impact.

Our approaches include:

  • Scar avoidance: We use small incisions when possible to remove breast tissue.
  • Skin-sparing techniques: In many cases, we can leave the nipple and the areola complex intact, to maintain your previous appearance as much as possible. With the skin-sparing method, the nipple, areola, and breast tissue underneath the skin is removed—an approach that has been shown not to increase the risk of cancer returning.
  • Nipple-sparing techniques: In select patients, the breast tissue is removed through an incision without removing the nipple-areolar complex or any skin. You should have a discussion with your surgeon and plastic surgeon to see if you are a candidate for this procedure.

Immediate breast reconstruction

After a mastectomy, most women are candidates for breast reconstruction, and many choose to do so. Our well-trained plastic surgeons are able to restore a natural look through a number of approaches, many of which they pioneered or refined:

  • Autologous tissue flaps: Tissue is carefully taken from elsewhere in your body, usually from the back, stomach, thighs, and/or buttocks.
  • Implants: We mainly use a silicone-based gel, which won’t leak even in the rare event of rupture. We often start with a tissue extender, a balloon-like device that helps mold the right size and shape before the implant is placed.

The collaboration between our breast surgery experts and plastic surgeons allows us to offer immediate reconstruction after surgery, when appropriate. Many patients appreciate this approach, which offers the benefit of having two procedures during a single operation and single dose of anesthesia.

Learn more about breast health

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Prophylactic mastectomy

If you have a significant family history of breast cancer, or carry the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations, you may consider having an elective mastectomy, known as a prophylactic, preventive, or risk-reducing procedure. This surgery removes your breast(s) to decrease the chance you will develop cancer. 

While many women appreciate the opportunity to participate personally in reducing their risk, a prophylactic mastectomy does not guarantee you will avoid breast cancer. Other potential consequences to consider include:

  • The surgery is irreversible
  • You cannot breastfeed from a reconstructed breast
  • Reconstructed breasts lose feeling and sensitivity
  • Some women experience changes in the way they feel about their body image

Our breast surgery specialists help you determine whether this approach is best suited for your situation and needs. If you decide to pursue this option after careful consideration, we offer you the best care available, in an atmosphere designed to put you at ease. 

Innovative treatments

  • Lymphedema surgery, which includes procedures such as lymph node transplant, microsurgery, and liposuction
  • Nipple-sparing mastectomy 
  • Non-nuclear sentinel node localization using Magtrace®, an injectable magnetic tracer   
  • Non-wire breast tumor localization, using the Magseed® marker, which provides less stress on the day of the surgery and makes the procedure a more comfortable experience  

Holistic, multidisciplinary approach

We care for patients with breast cancer using a holistic approach to work toward optimal outcomes. During treatment, you may been seen by highly trained breast surgery specialists in a variety of disciplines, including: 

  • Imaging 
  • Medical oncology
  • Nutrition
  • Pathology
  • Plastic surgery
  • Psychiatry
  • Radiation oncology
  • Rehabilitation

Our goal is to help patients move through the entire process and get them back to as close to 100% as possible. 

Our providers

Team of surgeons in operating room at a hospital

Expert breast cancer surgery care

Getting the care you need starts with seeing one of our breast cancer surgery specialists. Most are fellowship- trained, and they are all breast-specific surgeons.

Our locations

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MedStar Georgetown University Hospital

3800 Reservoir Rd. NW
Washington, DC 20007

MedStar St. Mary's Hospital

25500 Point Lookout Rd.
Leonardtown, MD 20650

MedStar Washington Hospital Center

110 Irving St. NW
Washington, DC 20010

MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center

9000 Franklin Square Dr
Baltimore, MD 21237

MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital

5601 Loch Raven Blvd.
Baltimore, MD 21239

MedStar Harbor Hospital

3001 S. Hanover St.
Baltimore, MD 21225

MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center

7503 Surratts Rd.
Clinton, MD 20735