Sometimes this surgery can be done by feeling the cancer through the skin or looking at it in the operating room (OR) using imaging tools like an ultrasound. However, most of the time cancer is not easily seen or felt by the surgeon. In these cases, needle localization, which is commonly performed by a radiologist on the morning of
surgery, is needed to locate the cancer in the breast. Needle localization uses images from a mammogram or ultrasound to locate the cancer. The breast is then numbed and a small needle and wire are placed into the breast to guide the surgeon to the mass. Once the needle and wire are in place, the patient is taken to the OR to have the cancer removed. When the tissue is removed, it is sent to the radiologist to confirm that the cancer has been removed. The surgeon will often leave metal markers in the breast where the surgery was done. These markers help identify the area on future mammograms and may be helpful for patients who also need radiation treatments. Markers are not seen or felt by the patient and are not harmful.
Most patients who have breast conservation surgery will also need radiation treatments. This should be discussed with your doctor while you are making a treatment plan before surgery.