Jefferson University Hospitals

Breast Surgical Procedures

Surgical Breast Biopsy

In excisional surgical biopsy, the surgeon will attempt to completely remove the area of concern (lesion), often along with a surrounding margin of normal breast tissue.

Incisional surgical biopsy is similar to an excisional biopsy except that the surgeon only removes part of the breast lesion. Incisional breast biopsy is usually only performed on large lesions. 


Lumpectomy, also known as breast preservation, involves the removal of the tumor (lump, lesion, abnormality) along with a margin of normal tissue around. Learn more >

Partial Mastectomy

This term is sometimes used. A partial mastectomy is the same surgical procedure as a lumpectomy. Learn more >


Mastectomy (simple mastectomy) involves the removal of the entire breast, including the nipple. Learn more >

Modified Radical Mastectomy

A modified radical mastectomy is similar to the simple mastectomy, but the lymph nodes in the armpit are also removed. Generally, the first step is the removal of the sentinel lymph node under the arm to determine if cancer has spread. If the sentinel lymph node shows cancer, then removal of the lymph nodes under the arm (axillary lymph node dissection) is done.

Radical Mastectomy

Includes the removal of the entire breast, plus the removal of underlying chest wall muscles (pectoralis major, pectoralis minor), along with removal of the axillary lymph nodes. It was a standard operative procedure for 30 years; it is rarely performed today.


Breast reconstruction involves the restoration of the breast(s) to near normal shape, appearance, symmetry and size following mastectomy or lumpectomy surgery for breast cancer treatment. Learn more >

Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy

Lymph nodes drain to one of two specific nodes first and then go on to the other nodes. These initial nodes are called sentinel lymph nodes, and studies have shown that if the sentinel lymph nodes are free of breast cancer cells, then there is an overwhelming probability that the rest of the lymph nodes (axillary nodes) are negative (no cancer cells). In patients who have negative sentinel lymph nodes, no further lymph node dissection is needed.