Tumors of the axilla are rare and pose a surgical challenge because they are usually large at presentation and in close proximity to the major neurovascular bundle of the upper extremity. The use of detailed preoperative evaluation studies and extensile surgical exposure for these tumors enabled us to determine tumor resectability and proceed with a safe resection or perform an amputation when required. We retrospectively reviewed 27 patients who underwent resection of an axillary tumor from 1989 to 2004 and analyzed their presenting symptoms, results of preoperative studies, type of surgery, and functional outcome. Tumors were exposed using a utilitarian shoulder approach that revealed no tumor invasion of the neurovascular bundle in 19 patients and invasion in eight. The former group was treated with tumor resection and the latter with forequarter amputation. Neurologic deficit, limb edema, and angiographic observation of arterial narrowing were associated with amputation. Good function was achieved in 15 of 19, shoulder range of motion was preserved in 14 of 19, and local tumor control was maintained in 16 of 19 patients who underwent a limb-sparing resection.