Breast Cancer Surgery

At the MedStar Harbor Hospital, our breast cancer patients have long benefited from our multidisciplinary approach to cancer care. We offer a full array of treatment options for women facing breast cancer backed by extensive experience and a personal touch. Our breast surgeon, a Baltimore magazine “Top Doctor”—carefully evaluates each woman’s diagnosis and, working as a team with other specialists, create a personalized treatment plan specially designed to meet her unique needs.

Nearly every breast cancer patient will have a surgical procedure as part of their course of treatment. The goal of surgery is to remove the tumor and to evaluate the axillary lymph nodes to determine if the cancer has spread.

Learn more about some of the breast cancer surgery options offered at MedStar Harbor:

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.


Mastectomy is the surgical removal of the entire breast, usually to treat serious breast disease, the most common of which is breast cancer.

Several mastectomy types exist:

Partial Mastectomy/Lumpectomy

A partial mastectomy (sometimes 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 it is why it is considered a breast-conserving or -preserving surgery.

The size of the breast will likely be a bit smaller after a lumpectomy or partial mastectomy. If needed, MedStar Health plastic surgeons will use oncoplastic techniques to restore symmetry and reduce the other side to match. [Read more about reconstructive surgery]

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

Radical Mastectomy

The chest wall muscles (pectorals) are removed, in addition to the breast and axillary lymph nodes. For many years, this operation was considered the standard for women with breast cancer, but it is rarely used today.

Modified Radical Mastectomy

The whole breast is removed, as are most of the axillary lymph nodes.

Skin Sparing Mastectomies

The breast, nipple, and areola are removed, but leave the outer layer of breast skin is left intact to make a breast reconstruction as natural looking as possible. Unless you do not want a breast reconstruction, you have inflammatory or locally advanced breast cancer, or your tumors are close to your outer breast skin, a skin sparing mastectomy is often a desirable option.

Studies have proven that skin sparing mastectomies are safe and do not increase the risk of recurrence. Our MedStar Harbor breast surgeon is a leader in the field of skin sparing mastectomies and works closely with expert plastic surgeons that routinely perform breast reconstructions.

Subcutaneous (Nipple-Sparing) Mastectomy

The entire inside of the breast is removed, but all of the breast skin, including the nipple and areola, is left intact. This procedure is recommended when tumors are small and far from the nipple and areola areas—usually it works best for women with breasts that are A and B cup size.

Total (Simple) Mastectomy

The whole breast, including nipple and areola, is removed, but the axillary lymph nodes are not.

Location Information

For a physician referral, please call 



MedStar Harbor Hospital
Outpatient Center
3001 South Hanover St.
Baltimore, MD 21225

Cancer Care Specialists