Please note this site is being decommissioned. Please see below for all resources.

After a breast cancer diagnosis, you will have a consultation with a surgeon.

Surgery is usually the first line of treatment for breast cancer unless the tumour is very large or has spread to other parts of the body.

After meeting with the surgeon, you will be provided with a surgery date and location. You will likely have to attend a pre-admission clinic, where they will ensure you are fit for surgery and all of the information is collected to make the surgical experience as safe as possible. Physical exams may be conducted including stretching to determine how you manage pain. You may also be asked to have some blood work, an ECG or an x-ray done.

If the surgeon is going to do a sentinel lymph node biopsy, you may be required to inject a tracer that will help the surgeon locate your sentinel nodes (first lymph nodes that come off the breast area in the armpit). The tracer does not tell the surgeon if the nodes contain cancer but instead, helps the surgeon locate the ones that will need to be removed so that they can be examined.

Here are some questions to help prepare for breast cancer surgery: 

Should I bring someone with me?

Absolutely. Having someone with you also means having an extra set of eyes and ears for information and instructions you'll get before and after your surgery. You may also find that the comfort of having a loved one or friend with you during this time is extremely valuable.

Prior to surgery you will meet with a surgeon who will review your diagnosis and health history, examine your breasts and assess for lymph nodes, will listen to your heart and your lungs, and who will discuss treatment and surgery options that are right for you. The surgeon will also need to know about the medications you take and any known allergies.

The first treatment is most often surgery but it may be in your best interest to have chemotherapy first. The surgeon will discuss the appropriate plan for you.

If surgery is the first treatment step, the surgeon will discuss the types of surgery and your options as appropriate.

Can I eat before my surgery?

Follow the instructions given to you by the surgeon’s office and/or the pre-admission clinic at the hospital where your surgery will take place.

What other preparations should I know about?

  • The nurse will ask you to remove any jewellery you are wearing as well as glasses, contact lenses or dental bridges. It might be a good idea to leave these things at home or have your companion carry them for you.

  • Depending on your surgery, you may need a good supportive bra to wear to your surgery – one that’s comfortable and easy to take off (e.g., bra with a front clasp or a sports bra) and doesn’t have an underwire.

  • Let your doctor and surgeon know about any prescription, over-the-counter, herbal, alternative or traditional medications and treatments you are taking.

Is surgery different for early breast cancer vs advanced breast cancer?

  • Most women with breast cancer have some type of surgery as part of their treatment. There are different types of breast surgery, and it may be done for different reasons, depending on the situation.

  • There are two main types of surgery frequently used for early breast cancer: breast-conserving surgery and a mastectomy. 

  • Surgery may be unlikely to cure advanced breast cancer, however it can be helpful in some situations – either as a way to slow the spread of the cancer, or to help prevent or relieve symptoms from it.

Will I receive other treatment after surgery?

  •  If you are undergoing surgery to remove the cancer, your healthcare team may choose to provide adjuvant therapy after the surgery is complete.
  • Adjuvant therapy is often used after the primary treatment, to less the chance of the cancer coming back.
  • Adjuvant therapy could include; chemotherapy, hormone therapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy or targeted therapy.