Breastcancer Surgery

Using this guide What's covered

Here you’ll find answers to many of your questions about breast cancer surgery, including lumpectomy and mastectomy. Learn how it’s done, what it may cost, what your recovery may be like, and more.

To see how lumpectomy and mastectomy surgeries are done, view our animations below. For personal insights into lumpectomy surgery, see our patient experience videos in which HCF members talk frankly about their preparation, surgery and recovery.

Cost indicator

Discover the typical out-of-pocket costs HCF members can expect to pay for breast cancer surgery and learn how your choice of surgeon and hospital affect that cost.


Lumpectomy costs Mastectomy costs

Learn about lumpectomy

How a surgeon can remove a tumour and some healthy tissue, leaving the rest of the breast intact.

Learn about mastectomy

How the breast can be completely removed in a simple mastectomy.

The basics

What’s breast cancer?

Breast cancer starts when cells in your breast start growing in an uncontrolled way. It’s the second most common cancer affecting Australian women. One in 8 women will develop breast cancer during their lifetime. Around 1% of breast cancers are found in men. The surgical options are similar for men and women.

Breast cancer in women is often detected through a breast cancer screening mammogram.

What’s breast cancer surgery?

There are 2 main types of breast cancer surgery:

A lumpectomy, or breast conserving surgery, is often used when the tumour is smaller. It’s also known as a partial mastectomy or wide local excision. The surgeon removes the cancer and a small amount of surrounding tissue.

A mastectomy (with or without reconstruction) involves the complete removal of your breast tissue. There are several types of mastectomy:

  • Simple or total mastectomy – removal of your entire breast, without removing your lymph nodes or pectoral muscles.
  • Skin-sparing mastectomy – your nipple and areola are usually removed along with the breast tissue, but the rest of the skin over your breast is kept.
  • Nipple-sparing mastectomy – your breast tissue is removed but the breast skin, including your nipple and areola, is kept. 

Each type of breast surgery can be performed with or without lymph nodes removal. Removal of 1 or more sentinel nodes or targeted nodes helps to diagnose the stage of your cancer (how far it has spread). Axillary node clearance, or removal of most of the lymph nodes, is less commonly recommended when it’s already known or suspected that cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.

The details

Preparing for surgery

Your breast biopsy

A biopsy is usually the first step before surgery.
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Types of breast cancer surgery

There are several types of surgery for the treatment of breast cancer.
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Results vs risks of the procedures

The benefits and risks of breast cancer surgery.
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Choosing a specialist

How to find a surgeon who specialises in breast cancer surgery.
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Surgery and aftercare

Questions for your specialist

What you should ask before going ahead with breast cancer surgery.
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Preparing for your procedure

Tests before your breast cancer surgery.
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Your anaesthetic options

About the anaesthetic and post-operative pain relief.
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Going to hospital

What to expect on the day of your surgery.
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Your surgery

What happens in the operating theatre.
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After your procedure

Your hospital stay.
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Additional treatments for breast cancer

Before or after surgery, you may be recommended additional treatments.
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Recovery and aftercare

Recovery involves both physical and emotional healing.
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Patient experiences

HCF members who've had lumpectomy and/or mastectomy talk about their preparation, hospital stay and recovery.

View videos

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Important information

Information is provided by HCF in good faith for the convenience of members. It is not an endorsement or recommendation of any form of treatment nor is it a substitute for medical advice, and you should rely on the advice of your treating doctors in relation to all matters concerning your health. Every effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, however HCF takes no responsibility for any injury, loss, damage or other consequences of the use of this information.