Surgery for secondary breast cancer
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 is more commonly used to help strengthen a weak bone that’s at risk of breaking.
Surgery to strengthen a weakened bone
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If a secondary breast cancer has weakened a bone, usually in the leg, you may need an operation to strengthen it.
This is done under a general anaesthetic. The surgeon puts a metal pin into the centre of the bone and may fix a metal plate to it. The pin and plate stay in permanently holding the bone in place and preventing it from breaking.
Surgery may also be used to replace a hip joint if it is affected. Occasionally it is used to treat secondary cancer in the spine.
You’ll need to stay in hospital for a week or longer after the operation so you can recover fully. However, most women are able to get up and start walking a couple of days after the operation.
After surgery you will usually have radiotherapy to the bone.
We have more information about secondary cancer in the bone.
Very occasionally, it may be possible to operate to remove a small cancer in a single area of the liver. This is major surgery and is only carried out by a specialist liver surgeon.
Another treatment called radiofrequency ablation may be carried out instead of surgery, but this isn’t a standard treatment. It destroys cancer cells using heat by placing needle electrodes into the liver.
We have more information about secondary cancer in the liver.
Surgery is very occasionally done if there is one or a limited number of tumours in the brain and it is possible to operate.
You’ll be referred to a specialist brain surgeon (neurosurgeon) to assess whether surgery is possible. Your brain surgeon and specialist nurse will tell you what to expect before and after your operation. You’ll usually be in hospital for at least a week.
Steroids are given to reduce the swelling around the tumour and improve your symptoms. You’ll be given them before your operation and for a few weeks afterwards, depending on your symptoms. You will usually have radiotherapy to the brain after you’ve recovered from the operation.
We have more information about secondary cancer in the brain.