The 1992 NIH Consensus Development Conference reported that "breast conservation treatment is an appropriate method of primary therapy for the majority of women with stage I and II breast cancer and is preferable because it provides survival equivalent to total mastectomy and axillary dissection while preserving the breast." This conclusion has been solidly confirmed by recent updates of all of the prospective clinical trials performed. The uneven utilization of this BCS indicates the personal discomfort of some surgeons in recommending it or in communicating their recommendations to patients. The appropriate candidate for mastectomy is the patient in whom it is evident that BCS will not control the tumor. This conclusion may be drawn after one or even two attempts at revision have shown more extensive microscopic disease. The experience with preoperative chemotherapy programs such as NSABP Protocol B-18 shows that even for larger tumors primary excision or excision after preoperative chemotherapy provides reasonable rates of local control with no evidence of diminished distant control or survival. Very large tumors, often accompanied by other grave signs, are best treated by primary chemotherapy, because they are essentially not stage I or stage II disease. Although recognizing that better long-term cure rates are a function of the treatment of micrometastases with adjuvant chemotherapy, surgeons should remember the need to balance cosmetic factors with techniques required for good local control. Cosmetic factors are always important, but the primary concern is adequate removal of the primary tumor with pathologically negative margins. The best way to prevent the need for a salvage mastectomy following local recurrence is to obtain adequate control at the initial procedure, but this does not mean that aggressive local surgery is needed, and it certainly does not mean that a primary mastectomy is needed except in unusual cases.