What is a lumpectomy?

A lumpectomy, also known as a partial mastectomy, is a surgical breast cancer treatment option that aims to preserve healthy breast tissue. During a lumpectomy, your surgeon will only remove the cancerous tumor and surrounding margin of healthy tissue.

In many cases, a lumpectomy will be followed by radiation therapy, which kills any remaining breast cancer cells.

Many women prefer lumpectomies over mastectomies because it allows them to keep some of their own breast tissue.

Who is a candidate for a lumpectomy?

Approximately 50 percent of women with breast cancer are candidates for a lumpectomy. Research shows that patients have similar survival rates after having a lumpectomy or mastectomy.

Who is not a candidate for a lumpectomy?

Your doctor will evaluate the location, size, type of tumor and your breast size when considering what treatment option is appropriate for your case.

Lumpectomies are not appropriate when:

  • The tumor is very large or in a difficult location to remove
  • Cancer is in more than one area of the breast
  • Radiation therapy is not an option following surgery
  • It isn’t possible to cleanly remove the outer edges of the tumor with the surgery or with additional surgery

What are the risks associated with a lumpectomy?

Approximately half of the patients who have a lumpectomy have a complication or side effect after surgery. Some complications are minor, while others are more severe.

Complications associated with a lumpectomy include:

  • Blood clots — blood clots could develop in your legs or lungs, which could lead to a deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism
  • Bleeding or infection at wound site
  • Fluid or blood buildup around operation site
  • Nerve pain that can lead to numbness, tingling or shooting pain in the arm
  • Shoulder stiffness
  • Swelling in the arms or hands

What to expect during a lumpectomy?

A lumpectomy procedure takes approximately 15 - 40 minutes. Your Mercy Health surgeon will use an electric scalpel that minimizes bleeding to make the incision. When possible, he or she will follow the curve of your breast to allow for better healing.

When the tumor is located, your surgeon will remove the tumor along with the health tissue surrounding the area. In many cases, a drain tube is inserted into the breast to collect fluid that accumulates in the space where the tumor was. When the tumor and any excess fluid is removed, your doctor will close the incision and dress the wound.

Recovery from a lumpectomy

After your lumpectomy procedure, you will be moved to a recovery room to be monitored. Most patients are discharged the day of the procedure unless there are complications or other follow-up surgeries needed.

Your cancer care team will give you discharge instructions that outline:

  • Pain relief techniques
  • Caring for the incision site
  • Caring for surgical drain site
  • Stitches or staple removal
  • Recovery exercises
  • Recognizing side effects or potential complications

When you get home, follow your doctor's instructions closely and rest in the days following the procedure. The recovery process is a lengthy process, and you may feed side effects from the surgery for months.

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