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Surgery is rarely used to remove secondary breast cancer because the cancer isn’t usually confined to one spot. It may occasionally be done in certain circumstances.
Surgery may occasionally be done when there’s a single tumour in an organ, and usually when there’s no other secondary cancer anywhere else. Women also need to be well enough to cope with the operation. Surgery is used more commonly to help strengthen a weak bone that’s at risk of breaking.
If a secondary breast cancer has weakened a bone| and there’s a risk it will break, you may need an operation to strengthen it. This is done under a general anaesthetic. The surgeon will put a metal pin into the centre of the bone and may also fix a metal plate to it. This holds the bone firmly in place so that it won’t break. The pin and plate will stay in permanently to protect the bone. Surgery is mainly used to strengthen the long bones in the legs but is sometimes used for secondaries in other bones, such as the spine. If your hip is affected, the hip joint may be replaced.
You’ll need to stay in hospital for a week or longer after the operation so that you can recover fully. However, most women are able to get up and start walking a couple of days after the surgery. An operation to put in a pin and plate may be done before any planned radiotherapy| treatment, if there’s a risk of the bone breaking.
If the cancer is small and in a single area of the liver| it may be possible to remove the tumour with surgery. This is major surgery and often not possible. You’ll usually be referred to a liver specialist who will assess you to find out if an operation is suitable for you.
Surgery is only used very occasionally and usually only if scans show there’s only one or limited secondary tumours in the brain| in an area where it’s possible to operate.
You’ll be referred to a specialist surgeon called a neurosurgeon to see whether an operation is possible. This type of surgery will be carried out in a specialist centre. Your brain surgeon and specialist nurse will tell you what to expect before and after your operation. You’ll probably be in hospital for at least a week.
Steroids| are drugs that are usually given to help to reduce swelling around the tumour and improve your symptoms. You’ll probably be prescribed these before your operation and for a few weeks afterwards depending on your symptoms. You’ll usually be given radiotherapy| to the whole brain after you have recovered from your operation.
Content last reviewed: 1 September 2010
Next planned review: 2013
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