Breast Conservation Surgery

Breast cancer surgery comprises two parts. The first is treatment to the breast and the second, treatment of the lymph nodes in the axilla, (arm pit) if necessary.

Breast conservation surgery is an operation which keeps the breast intact after removing the cancer with a rim of normal tissue all around it. This has been shown to have similar 20-year survival outcomes as a mastectomy (breast removal). In many countries, like the United States, Canada, Germany, Italy and France, doctors consider breast conservation surgery to be the preferred method of treatment for early breast cancer. After careful studies, experts in Japan and Hong Kong have also found that breast conservation provides similar outcomes for Asian women. Breast conservation is generally preferred as it avoids the disfiguring operation of breast removal (mastectomy) and averts complications of breast reconstruction. In the Guidelines for the Treatment of Breast Cancer published by the Ministry of Health in Singapore in 2004, it was stated that local recurrence rates for mastectomy (breast removal) was 6.2% whereas local recurrence rates for breast conservation treatment was 5.9%.

Breast conservation surgery is Dr Tan’s particular interest. She has an immense amount of experience in this area of surgery. Although she was trained in Singapore and later at the well-known New South Wales Breast Cancer Institute in Sydney, Australia, she has taken what she has learned to new heights and further developed techniques in breast conservation. She is the FIRST surgeon in the world, and the ONLY surgeon in Singapore, to describe not one, but three unique techniques which would enable more women to undergo breast conservation surgery resulting in a good appearance of the breast after treatment. This has a very profound and personal impact on women who are treated for breast cancer.

Being the first surgeon internationally to describe these techniques, her experience is unparalleled in this respect. Her surgical methods are published in reputable international journals like Lancet Oncology, The American Journal of Surgery and the Journal of the American College of Surgeons. She also has written articles that have been published, or have been accepted for publication in the Annals of Surgical Oncology, the Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, Australian New Zealand Journal of Surgery, the Breast Journal, British Medical Journal (online), the Journal of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, and World Journal of Surgery. The quality of her work has been acknowledged by doctors in a university hospital in the United Kingdom.

Ninety percent of Dr Tan’s patients who have breast cancer undergo breast conservation surgery. This is in comparison with 27% to 60% of breast conservation rates in a public, restructured, tertiary referral centre in Singapore. A significant proportion of her patients who have undergone breast conservation surgery successfully were initially offered a mastectomy (breast removal) by other surgeons. Because of her level of technical skill in breast conservation surgery, she makes it possible to preserve the breast for effective treatment of cancer instead of doing a mastectomy in many cases, even if breast removal was recommended by another surgeon. The unique surgical methods that Dr Tan has developed provide a possible alternative for women diagnosed with breast cancer.

Although Dr Tan is a great advocate for breast conservation, she is able to perform a mastectomy (breast removal) where necessary and if it the patient’s choice.


Our Locations

Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital
38 Irrawaddy Road, #06-21
Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital
Singapore 329563
Phone: (65) 6694 1706

Mount Elizabeth Orchard
3 Mt Elizabeth, #11-02,
Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre
Singapore 228510
Phone: (65) 6734 4880

Consultation Hours

Mon - Fri: 9 am to 12:30pm; 2 pm to 5 pm
Sat: Strictly by Appointment