Your Breast Health Starts with You: What if I Have to Get Surgery?

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Your Breast Health Starts with You: What if I Have to Get Surgery?


When it comes to breast cancer, most women’s cases will require surgical intervention. Ashley Richardson, DO, breast surgeon at McLaren Flint, says the breast care team takes a very individualized approach when determining which surgery is best for each patient.

“Once diagnosed with breast cancer, patients are very anxious and have several questions,” explained Dr. Richardson. “The diagnosis and treatment can be alarming and drastically alter a patient’s life.  Instead of explaining the diagnosis, I often have to talk patients off a ledge. Their minds begin wandering to what they heard on TV, saw on social media or heard from a friend of a friend. There are many unreliable sources.”

The most common breast cancers are invasive ductal to invasive lobular. In most patients, breast cancer is found at an early stage when the cancer is small and has not spread beyond the lymph nodes. This means the cure rates are extremely high.

“Breast cancer treatment is a multi-disciplinary approach and there are several effective treatments available now for patients such as chemotherapy, radiation and surgery,” said Dr. Richardson.

Most women can keep their breasts. Dr. Richardson discusses surgical options, such as lumpectomy and mastectomy, thoroughly with her patients so they understand the pros and cons of each treatment option and can make an educated choice, feel confident, and ultimately reduce their fear and anxiety. Dr. Richardson is fellowship trained in multiple surgical approaches, such as nipple sparing mastectomy, simple mastectomy and breast conservation.

Before proceeding to surgery, Dr. Richardson explained there may need to be more imaging or additional biopsies performed

“I counsel all of my patients that breast cancer treatment can be intricate and involve multiple steps,” said Dr. Richardson. “However, we want to make sure that we’re doing everything right the first time around and we’re not skipping steps to get to the operating room.”

As far as recovery after surgery, Dr. Richardson said it is very patient dependent. Most of her patients have outpatient surgery and go home the same day. Oftentimes, patients can get back to their normal activities within a week or so.

“Ladies usually do really well with breast surgery recovery,” added Dr. Richardson.

Dr. Richardson also frequently operates in combination with plastic surgery. Women receiving a mastectomy can elect to have breast reconstruction at that time.

“At the time of surgery, I’ll do the oncologic portion of the procedure and the plastic surgeon will then perform immediate breast reconstruction,” explained Dr. Richardson.

Plastic surgery interventions at the time of oncologic surgery is covered by insurance because it is related to a cancer diagnosis.

After surgery, for many women, their next step in the process is to go through other forms of treatment with the rest of their cancer care team: a medical and, or, a radiation oncologist. This stage of their cancer care delivers treatments that aim to make sure the cancer does not come back.



For more information about breast cancer care at Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Flint, visit