Dr. Tan Chuan Chien

Breast Surgery

The purpose of breast cancer surgery is to remove the cancer while balancing the effects on appearance, sensation and function. The treatment plan for the cancer should be personalised to meet the demands and expectations of each patient. Your breast cancer specialist should discuss these choices with you and help you agree on the best treatment option for you.

Surgical Treatments for Breast Cancer

After diagnostic tests reveal that your breast lumps are cancerous, the next step of treatment is surgery. 

Various surgical options are available, depending on the size of the tumour, whether the cancer has spread, the severity of the cancer, and your general health conditions.

Breast Reconstruction Surgery

A breast reconstruction surgery is performed to restore the breast to its natural form as much as possible, using an implant or the patient’s own tissue.

Implant-Based Reconstruction
  • Breast implants such as silicone or saline are used to restore the shape and volume of the breast.
  • Usually performed in the same operation, immediately after a mastectomy.
Tissue-Based Reconstruction
  • The patient’s own body tissues are used for the surgery to give the new breast a more natural appearance and texture.
  • The tissues can be taken from the tummy, back or buttocks.

Compare Your Treatment Options

Treatment Options Lumpectomy Mastectomy Mastectomy with Reconstruction Surgery
Who is suitable for the procedure?
Who is suitable for the procedure?

  • Cancer only affects a portion of the breasts.
  • The tumour is relatively small compared to the breast.
  • The patient is medically fit to undergo surgery and follow-up radiation therapy.
Most patients can also opt for mastectomy if:

  • Cancer affects more than one area of the breast.
  • The tumour is relatively large compared to the breast.
  • The patient is not fit to receive radiation therapy.
  • Patient’s choice to undergo a mastectomy.
Patients who decided for mastectomy can choose to undergo reconstruction surgery if they wish to.
What are the risks?
You may feel fatigued, or experience skin changes from the radiation treatment. You may feel imbalanced, especially if you had large breasts. This may lead to neck or shoulder aches. You may be dissatisfied with how your new breasts look. In the case of your implants, they may:

  • Break or leak, requiring additional surgeries.
  • Harden, causing pain.
Other possible complications may include:
  • Formation of scars
  • Bleeding
  • Temporary swelling
  • Pain
  • Infection
Will insurance cover the surgery expenses?
Every insurance plan is different. You should check with your insurance company to determine whether your plan covers the surgery costs. Visit our billing & payment page to find out which are the insurance providers we collaborate with.
How long will I take to recover?
3 – 4 weeks 3 – 4 weeks 6 – 8 weeks

However, depending on the type of reconstruction done, it may take longer to recover.

Note: Recovery time differs for each patient, depending on the severity of cancer and the extent of surgery.
What additional treatments will I need?
Radiation therapy is usually done within a few weeks after lumpectomy. Radiation therapy may be required depending on the situation, and extent of the disease
Depending on your condition, other types of treatment may include:
  • Hormone therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapy
What will my breasts look like after surgery?
Your breast should be very similar to what it looked like before surgery.

However, depending on the size of the lump, your breast may look smaller.

You will have a flat chest on the side where your breast was removed. You will have a breast-like shape, but it will not look like it did before surgery.
You will also have scars at the surgical site. Scars will form at the site where the skin is stitched to create a new breast-like shape.
Will my breasts have any feeling after surgery?
Yes, you should still have feeling in most parts of your breasts, however there may be numbness over the site of the surgery or your armpit. Depends. The surgical site may have a numb feeling. This numbness may disappear after 1 or 2 years but will not feel the same as before surgery. No. The area around your breast will not have any feeling.
What are the chances of breast cancer recurrence?
The chance of the cancer coming back is similar whether a patient undergoes a Lumpectomy (Breast Conserving Surgery (BCS)) or mastectomy.
Who is suitable for the procedure?
Lumpectomy

Who is suitable for the procedure?

  • Cancer only affects a portion of the breasts.
  • The tumour is relatively small compared to the breast.
  • The patient is medically fit to undergo surgery and follow-up radiation therapy.
Mastectomy

Most patients can also opt for mastectomy if:

  • Cancer affects more than one area of the breast.
  • The tumour is relatively large compared to the breast.
  • The patient is not fit to receive radiation therapy.
  • Patient’s choice to undergo a mastectomy.
Mastectomy with Reconstruction Surgery

Patients who decided for mastectomy can choose to undergo reconstruction surgery if they wish to.

What are the risks?
Lumpectomy

You may feel fatigued, or experience skin changes from the radiation treatment.

Mastectomy

You may feel imbalanced, especially if you had large breasts. This may lead to neck or shoulder aches.

Mastectomy with Reconstruction Surgery

You may be dissatisfied with how your new breasts look. In the case of your implants, they may:

  • Break or leak, requiring additional surgeries.
  • Harden, causing pain.
Other possible complications may include:

  • Formation of scars
  • Bleeding
  • Temporary swelling
  • Pain
  • Infection
Will insurance cover the surgery expenses?
Every insurance plan is different. You should check with your insurance company to determine whether your plan covers the surgery costs. Visit our billing & payment page to find out which are the insurance providers we collaborate with.
How long will I take to recover?
Lumpectomy

3 – 4 weeks

Mastectomy

3 – 4 weeks

Mastectomy with Reconstruction Surgery

6 – 8 weeks

However, depending on the type of reconstruction done, it may take longer to recover.

Note: Recovery time differs for each patient, depending on the severity of cancer and the extent of surgery.
What additional treatments will I need?
Lumpectomy

Radiation therapy is usually done within a few weeks after lumpectomy.

Mastectomy & Mastectomy with Reconstruction Surgery

Radiation therapy may be required depending on the situation, and extent of the disease

Depending on your condition, other types of treatment may include:

  • Hormone therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapy
What will my breasts look like after surgery?
Lumpectomy

Your breast should be very similar to what it looked like before surgery.

However, depending on the size of the lump, your breast may look smaller.

You will also have scars at the surgical site.

Mastectomy

You will have a flat chest on the side where your breast was removed.

You will also have scars at the surgical site.

Mastectomy with Reconstruction Surgery

You will have a breast-like shape, but it will not look like it did before surgery.

Scars will form at the site where the skin is stitched to create a new breast-like shape.

Will my breasts have any feeling after surgery?
Lumpectomy

Yes, you should still have feeling in most parts of your breasts, however there may be numbness over the site of the surgery or your armpit.

Mastectomy

Depends. The surgical site may have a numb feeling. This numbness may disappear after 1 or 2 years but will not feel the same as before surgery.

Mastectomy with Reconstruction Surgery

No. The area around your breast will not have any feeling.

What are the chances of breast cancer recurrence?
The chance of the cancer coming back is similar whether a patient undergoes a Lumpectomy (Breast Conserving Surgery (BCS)) or mastectomy.
DR. TAN CHUAN CHIEN

Key Guiding Philosophies

Competency

Dr. Tan is a Fellowship-trained Breast & Endocrine Surgeon who is registered on the Specialist Register (General Surgery) in both Singapore and Australia. He completed his formal Breast Surgery training through the BreastSurgANZ Fellowship Programme. He was previously Head, Division of Breast & Endocrine Surgery, NTFGH where he was the pioneer breast surgeon there developing a comprehensive, evidence-based Breast Surgery service.

Care for the wider community

Dr. Tan is passionate about engaging the wider community with regards to breast cancer outcomes. He volunteers with the Singapore Cancer Society and served as the Chairman of the Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign Committee from 2018 to 2021. He continues to currently serve as a member of this committee. During his time in the public hospital, Dr. Tan was involved in research on breast cancer screening and care, where he succeeded in obtaining competitive grants and managing a research team, with the overall aim to improve breast cancer outcomes in Singapore.

Patient-centered care

Dr. Tan believes in the importance of the patient experience and the partnership between doctor and patients in healing sickness. He also believes no two individuals are the same. He believes in the philosophy of personalised tailor-made care plans for each of his patients to meet their individual expectations and needs.

Comprehensive Breast, Thyroid and General Surgery service

Dr. Tan aims to provide comprehensive, evidence-based care to all his patients, in a modern equipped clinic along the entire spectrum of the patient journey from diagnosis, through treatment/surgery and aftercare.

Types of Surgery

There are generally two types of surgery — lumpectomy (breast conservation surgery) and mastectomy.

Lumpectomy (Breast Conservation Surgery)

Lumpectomy is a surgical procedure to remove only a portion of the breast containing cancerous tissues while preserving the rest of the healthy breasts.

Radiation therapy is usually provided after a lumpectomy to remove any remaining cancer cells left in the breast to minimise the risk of cancer returning.

Mastectomy

The entire breast tissue is surgically removed from the breasts.

The different types of mastectomy include:

  • Total Mastectomy

Involves removing the entire breast, including the nipple, the circular area around the nipple (areola) and most of the overlying skin. Usually performed when the cancer has not spread beyond the breast.

  • Radical Mastectomy

Similar to total mastectomy. However, the chest muscles under the breast and lymph nodes are also removed. This surgery is advised when the cancer has spread to the chest muscles.

  • Skin-Sparing Mastectomy

 

The entire breast tissues, nipple and areola are removed, but most of the skin over the breast remains intact. It is usually performed if a breast reconstruction surgery is planned immediately after mastectomy.

However, it may not be recommended if the tumour is too large or near the skin surface.

 

  • Nipple-Sparing Mastectomy

 

Similar to skin-sparing mastectomy. However, the breast tissues are only removed up to the nipple and areola. The skin of the nipple and areola are preserved, and the tissues under and around them are removed.

If the tissues removed turn out to be cancerous, the skin of the nipple and areola must also be removed.

A breast reconstruction surgery is done after this surgery.

As a supporter of personalised surgical care, I understand that no two patients are the same. I believe in tailoring management for each patient to meet each individual’s needs and expectations. A patient’s journey can be difficult and frustrating at times, so I strive to make this experience as pleasant and seamless as possible.

Dr. Tan Chuan Chien
For Singaporeans, Singapore Permanent Residents and foreigners

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Dr. Tan Chuan Chien

Consultant General Surgeon Breast & Thyroid Surgery
  • Bachelor of Medicine & Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS)- The University of Adelaide, Australia
  • Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (FRACS)
  • Full Registration, Singapore Medical Council (SMC) and Specialist Accreditation Board, Singapore (General Surgery)
  • Full General & Specialist Registration (General Surgery), Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA)
  • Completed Breast Surgery training through the BreastSurgANZ Fellowship programme

Dr. Tan Chuan Chien is a Fellowship-trained Breast and Endocrine Surgeon practicing as a Consultant General Surgeon at Gleneagles Hospital, Singapore. He also sees patients at Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre and Parkway East Medical Centre. Dr. Tan is a registered Specialist Surgeon (General Surgery) in both Singapore and Australia.

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