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What is metastatic breast cancer? ​​​​​​​ How do doctors make treatment decisions?SurgeryRadiotherapyChemotherapyHormone TherapyTargeted Therapy What matters most to you? Your doctor discussion guideYour questions answered
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How is it used in metastatic breast cancer and for which types?

Surgery is more commonly used as a treatment for early-stage breast cancer. However, surgery may also be a treatment option for locally advanced and metastatic breast cancer. There will likely be a combination of treatments along with the surgery, such as radiotherapy ​​​​​​​ and drug therapy.

​​​​​​​The type of surgery recommended to you will depend on many different factors. These include the size of the tumour ​​​​​​​, whether it has spread throughout the breast or other areas of the body and the type of breast cancer you have.

Different types of 
​​​​​​​surgery for breast cancer


  • This type of surgery removes the tumour ​​​​​​​ but aims for you to keep as much of your breast as possible (breast-conserving surgery)


  • This is removal of the entire breast to minimise the chances of the cancer spreading further

Breast reconstruction

  • Following a mastectomy, there is usually an option to have an operation to reconstruct the breast

Surgery to remove lymph nodes ​​​​​​​ in the armpit

  • Breast cancer can spread to the lymph nodes under the arm. If this happens, you may need to have surgery to have the lymph nodes removed. If this is done at the same time as removal of the breast, it may be referred to as a radical mastectomy

Surgery for locally advanced breast cancer

  • If the tumour ​​​​​​​ progresses to an advanced stage, cancer treatments may be given first to reduce the size of the tumour followed by surgery to remove it

Surgery for metastatic breast cancer

  • If the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the brain or bones, surgery can be an option in certain circumstances
  • This may require referral to a different surgeon who specialises in this part of the body
If surgery is an option for you, it is important that you talk to your doctor about all the different types of surgery available. It is important to come to a joint decision about what is right for you.

How will the surgery be carried out?

This will depend on the type of surgery you are having. The operation will take place in a hospital and your doctor will talk you through what can be expected from the procedure.

What side effects might I experience?

The side effects depend on the type of surgery you are having.
It is important to discuss the side effects of your particular type of surgery with your doctor.

Click here to learn more about what you might expect after surgeryLoading


The What’s Breast for Me? Campaign is funded by Pfizer Healthcare Ireland. Copyright © 2024 Pfizer Healthcare Ireland. All rights reserved. This site is intended for residents of the Republic of Ireland. The information provided on this site is intended for general information and education and is not intended to be a substitute for advice provided by a doctor or other qualified healthcare professional. All decisions regarding patient care must be made with a healthcare provider, considering the unique characteristics of the patients.


Date of preparation: January 2024