Lumpectomy is a surgical procedure to remove cancerous tissue from the breast. It differs from mastectomy in that only the diseased portion of the breast is excised, and therefore referred to as breast-conservation surgery. A small quantity of normal tissue is also excised to ensure that all the margins of the disease are removed and no cancerous cells are left behind.
Lumpectomy is usually the first treatment option for many women when cancer is diagnosed early. Lumpectomy is followed by radiation therapy to reduce the chances of cancer recurring in the breast.
Why is lumpectomy performed?
Lumpectomy is recommended if:
- Your biopsy confirms a cancerous tumor
- The cancer identified is early-stage, small and breast-conservation is a good option
- A benign tumor is identified that must be removed
You are not an ideal candidate for lumpectomy if:
- You have a chronic inflammatory disease such as lupus or skin-thickening condition like scleroderma – these diseases may prohibit subsequent radiation therapy
- Tumors are present in different breast quadrants
- Are not a suitable candidate for radiation therapy due to prior radiation and you must avoid overdoses of radiation
- Your breast has very little cancer-free areas due to previous surgeries
- Have a skin condition called xeroderma pigmentosa, where the skin is overly sensitive to ultraviolet light
Risks of lumpectomy
- Bleeding and infection at surgical site
- Scar formation at incision site
- Numbness lasting for a long time
- Change in breast shape
Preparation for lumpectomy
The surgery is performed as an outpatient procedure and you can go home the same day of surgery. Inform your doctor of all medications and supplements you take so that there is no interference with surgery. If you take aspirin, you usually will be asked to stop taking it a week before planned surgery. Bring someone with you to the surgery so that they can listen to all postoperative instructions.
The surgeon will make an incision and remove the tumor and some surrounding tissue for analysis. Sentinel lymph nodes may also be excised. The incisions are carefully closed with attention to maintaining the shape and size of the breast.
Your follow-up visit with the doctor will usually be within a week when the pathology results of lumpectomy become available. Your doctor may recommend more surgery if the margins were not clear of cancerous cells. You may be referred to a medical oncologist, a radiation oncologist, a plastic surgeon, or a support group depending on your diagnosis.
Content reviewed by Deanna Jean Attai, MD, FACS