What is the window of opportunity for breast cancer surgery?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

I have Inflammatory Breast cancer. I have been receiving Chemo and a hormone drug for about a year trying to shrink the tumor in the breast. The doctor said it is as small as it is going to shrink. The oncologist doctor and my Surgeon will be deciding whether to operate or not. My oncologist doctor said he did not want me to lose my window for a operation but they would have to decide if they would be operating or not. What other options are there and how long is the window to get operated on?

Expert Answers

Andrew Putnam, M.D. is a Palliative Care physician at Smilow Cancer Center at Yale New Haven Hospital and Yale University.

The window of opportunity for breast cancer surgery is different in different people depending on the stage of disease. The question for any surgery is will the benefits outweigh the burdens. To do a major surgery, the surgeon will generally want the tumor to be small enough that s/he can get it all or at least to have a significant effect on the course of that person's disease. Ideally they want to operate when the tumor is small enough to get it all and before it has spread to other parts of the body so that there will be a likely cure. A surgeon is not likely to want to operate if the cancer has already spread. In that case the patient will have the difficulties of recovering from the surgery but will still need to get significant chemotherapy to try and treat the remaining disease which she would have needed anyway.