In some cases, surgery is recommended for metastatic breast cancer. On this page you can read about the different reasons your doctor might suggest surgery.
Surgery for metastatic recurrence
If breast cancer has spread to another part of the body, surgery may not be a good treatment choice because it's unlikely to get rid of all the cancer cells. This is especially true if the cancer has spread to more than one location. Still, in some cases, your doctor may recommend surgery or radiation therapy (or both) to prevent broken bones or cancer cell blockages in your liver or to ease pain and other symptoms.
Surgery for metastatic breast cancer at first diagnosis ("de novo" metastatic)
Nearly 10% of women are found to have metastatic disease when they are first diagnosed. Some research suggests that some women with metastatic breast cancer at first diagnosis may have better survival rates if the primary tumor in the breast is removed. If your first diagnosis of breast cancer was metastatic disease, you may want to ask your doctor if surgery to remove the breast tumor would be a good option for your specific situation.
Surgery to remove liver metastasis
Surgery to remove metastatic breast cancer isn't common, but a small study suggests that some women can benefit from surgery to remove breast cancer that has metastasized to the liver if the cancer has certain characteristics:
- responded to chemotherapy before surgery
- didn't grow in the time between metastatic diagnosis and surgery
Right now, we don't know if women who have surgery to remove metastatic breast cancer in the liver have better outcomes than women who don't have surgery. Still, if you have liver metastases, you may want to ask your doctor about the benefits and risks of surgery in your unique situation.
Cryoablation for metastatic breast cancer
Cryoablation may be an option to treat small, isolated metastatic breast cancer tumors in women who aren’t good candidates for surgery. Guided by imaging (ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI), cryoablation inserts a special freezing probe (a type of catheter) through the skin and to the tumor to be treated. Once the tip of the probe is in the right spot inside the tumor core, pressurized argon gas is injected through the probe into the tumor, freezing and destroying the cancerous tissue. Cryoablation techniques may vary from one cancer treatment facility to another. Cryoablation is more common in cases where the breast cancer is being well-controlled by systemic treatments such as chemotherapy and hormonal therapy.
For more information on surgery, visit the What to Expect With Any Surgery page.