Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 30 March 2021
Table of contents
What Is a Lumpectomy?
A lumpectomy is a form of breast cancer surgery that extracts cancerous or abnormal tissue from the breast. Breast-conserving surgery, partial mastectomy, or excisional biopsy are both terms used by doctors to describe the procedure. Unlike a traditional mastectomy, the surgeon simply removes the tumour and any of the underlying breast tissue, rather than the whole breast.
You’ll most likely be ready to go home the next day if you had a lumpectomy. Rather than being placed under general anaesthesia, some patients prefer to have numbing local anaesthesia.
Who Gets a Lumpectomy?
Usually, people who have this form of breast cancer surgery:
- Have a single small tumour with a diameter of less than 5 centimetres
- Have enough tissue to prevent a misshapen breast if the underlying tissue is removed.
- Are medically fit for surgery and subsequent radiation therapy
A lumpectomy might not be suitable for you if you have:
- Scleroderma, a condition that makes tissues harden. This will delay healing time.
- Lupus, an inflammatory condition that will be exacerbated with radiation treatment.
- Previous radiation treatment on your breast.
- Metastatic cancer that has affected other organs or the skin above the breast. This surgery will not be able to resect the tumour.
- A large tumour or small breasts.
- Two or three tumours in different parts of the breast that the surgeon won’t be able to remove with a single cut. During a lumpectomy, several cuts may cause your breast to look misshapen.
- No accessibility to radiation treatment.
Radiation With a Lumpectomy
Radiation is usually provided after a lumpectomy. According to research, this combination treatment helps women survive almost as long as people who have their whole breast removed. Furthermore, since the surgeon removes less breast tissue, you may achieve improved cosmetic outcomes.
A lumpectomy with radiation, on the other hand, may not be the best choice for women who:
- Have multiple tumors in their breast
- Have very large tumors or cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes or other tissue around the breast
- Have had radiation to the same breast for an earlier breast cancer
- Are pregnant
- Have a tumor where it would be hard to remove enough surrounding tissue
What to Expect
Before your lumpectomy surgery, the doctor can give you:
- Specific instructions to follow in the days before the surgery
- An overview of the surgical procedure
- Information about recovery and follow-up care
- Information of risks and potential complications
It normally takes an hour or two to complete the procedure. Tiny metallic clips may be used by your surgeon’s team within your breast to guide them to the precise area to be removed.
During the surgery, they can even examine the lymph nodes. They’ll inject a radioactive tracer or blue dye into the tissue surrounding the tumour during a process called sentinel node biopsy. The tracer or dye follows the path of the cancer cells. This allows doctors to see whether any lymph nodes need to be removed for examination.
The breast tissue and any lymph nodes removed are sent to a lab, where tests are performed to determine the type of tumour, if the disease has progressed to the lymph nodes, and whether the cancer is hormone-driven. Other tests assist your doctor in determining how the disease can behave and the best treatment options. The form of tumour and the outcome of these tests can take a few days to be determined.
Complications and Side Effects
If you experience pain in your arm or hand (lymphedema), an accumulation of fluid under the surface, redness, or some other signs of infection when you’re healing, inform the doctor right away.
You might also note the following:
- Swelling at the site
- Hard scar tissue at the site
- Changes in the shape and look of your breast
Referenced on 29.3.2021
- Breastcancer.org: “Lumpectomy," ”Lymph Node Removal.”
- American Cancer Society: “Surgery for Breast Cancer.”
- Mayo Clinic: “Lumpectomy.”