Breast cancer begins in the breast and spreads first to the lymph nodes of the armpit (axilla). When a breast lump is found to contain cancer, and if the cancer has not spread beyond the nodes of the axilla to distant sites, it is often removed surgically. Radiation therapy may be used in addition to surgery.
In certain cases of malignant lumps, lumpectomy followed by radiation therapy is as effective as a radical mastectomy. Typically, lumpectomy does not require a breast replacement (prosthesis).
Review Date 3/11/2023
Updated by: Debra G. Wechter, MD, FACS, General Surgery Practice Specializing in Breast Cancer, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.