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The treatment of breast cancer has undergone continuous and profound changes over the last three decades; breast conservation therapy has been progressively validated as a safe alternative to radical mastectomy for patients with early stage breast cancer. Several large trials have shown that overall survival time of patients treated with conservative surgery and axillary dissection followed by radiation therapy is equivalent to that of patients treated with modified radical mastectomy, with better cosmetic outcomes and acceptable rates of local recurrence. Improvements in diagnostic work-up and the wider diffusion of screening programs have allowed the detection of smaller, often non palpable tumours, furtherly facilitating the widespread use of tumour localization and breast conserving techniques. Since the removal of negative lymph nodes is useless, eventually harmful and plays no therapeutic role in breast cancer patients, techniques for staging of the axilla have also gradually evolved toward less aggressive approaches, such as lymphatic mapping and sentinel node biopsy. The introduction of “onco-plastic techniques”, that combine the concepts of oncological and plastic surgery of the breast, achieve the goal of allowing more extensive excisions while improving the aesthetic results, and eventually patient’s quality of life. The present work will highlight potential benefits as well as unresolved issues of the above mentioned therapeutic options, with special emphasis on technical aspects of conservative surgery in the treatment of early breast cancers.