Surgery for secondary breast cancer

Surgery is rarely used to remove secondary breast cancer. This is because the cancer isn’t usually confined to one area. But it can occasionally be used in certain circumstances.

Surgery to strengthen a weakened bone

If a secondary breast cancer has weakened a bone, usually in the hip or leg, you may need an operation to strengthen it.

You have this 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 can also be used to replace a hip joint if it is affected. Occasionally it is used to treat secondary cancer in the spine.

You need to stay in hospital for a week or longer after the operation so you can recover fully. But most women can get up and start walking a couple of days after surgery. You usually have radiotherapy to the bone afterwards.

We have more information about secondary cancer in the bone.

Liver surgery

Very occasionally, it may be possible to operate to remove a small cancer in a single area of the liver. This is major surgery that is carried out by a specialist liver surgeon.

Another treatment called radiofrequency ablation may be used 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 liver cancer.

Brain surgery

Occasionally, it may be possible to have surgery to the brain. This is usually if there is only a single tumour in the brain in an area where it is possible to operate.

You will be referred to a specialist brain surgeon (neurosurgeon) to assess whether surgery is possible. The 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.

Your doctor will prescribe steroids to reduce the swelling around the tumour and improve your symptoms. You take them before your operation and for a few weeks afterwards, depending on your symptoms. You usually have radiotherapy to the brain after you have recovered from the operation.

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What happens after surgery?

You’ll be monitored very closely after your operation. You will be very tired so it’s important to rest and look after yourself.