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Lumpectomy is a surgical procedure that helps in the removal of a benign tumor or lump from the breast. It is a type of breast preservation surgery as only a part of the healthy breast tissue around the tumor is removed. This procedure conserves most of the breast tissue as compared to mastectomy. In a mastectomy, entire breast tissue along with the cancerous cells is removed.

Why is Lumpectomy Carried Out?

Lumpectomy is required when it is necessary to remove cancerous cells or abnormal lumps in the breast tissue. This method helps preserve most of the breast structure. It is often recommended to women who are detected with cancer in the early stage of the disease. Women whose cancer is about 5 cm in diameter or have a tumor that has not affected the majority of the surrounding tissue are good candidates for this type of surgery. Also, women who are strong enough and medically fit to undergo radiation therapy after the surgery are advised lumpectomy.

Women who have previously undergone radiation therapy for breast cancer or have multiple tumors in the breast are not advised lumpectomy. Another criteria for women who cannot undergo lumpectomy include, pregnancy, advanced cancer as well as large tumor that leaves no margin for saving surrounding healthy tissue.

Preparation before Lumpectomy

The patient is asked to stop taking any medications like ibuprofen, warfarin, clopidogrel, etc. that may cause blood clotting difficulties on the day of surgery. One should stop smoking days before the surgery.

On the day of the procedure, take the drugs advised by the doctor. Speak to the doctor beforehand, if you are allowed to eat or drink before the surgery. Also, change into the hospital gown the nurse advises you to wear.

The doctor will feel the tumor physically to locate its position. With the help of a mammogram or ultrasound, its exact position will be marked. The position will be marked with the help of drawings on the breast, that will show where the surgery is to be performed. The patient is given local anesthesia or general anesthesia, according to the consent of the patient.

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During The Surgery

The surgery takes just about 15 minutes to 40 minutes. An incision is made over the site of tissue that is to be removed. Then the mass is observed and the lump along with the cancerous tissues is removed. Some of the healthy tissue around the mass, called the margin is also removed. The mass removed is sent to the lab for further analysis.

After removal of the tissues, the surgeon will look further into the breast tissue to find if any cancerous or abnormal tissue can be seen. If there is nothing abnormal observed, the incision will be sutured and  the surgery is completed. In some cases, lymph node samples from the underarms will be taken for further tests.

After The Surgery

The patient will be taken to a recovery room after the surgery. Here, the patient’s heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, etc. are monitored closely. Once the effects of anesthesia wear off, the patient may be given a pain medication. This will help reduce the pain one may feel after the surgery. The doctor will also give you a prescription of medications that you may have to take after going home.

The doctor will also instruct you regarding the care for bandage over the incision. He will also tell you the day when you should be back for a follow-up. Most surgeons use dissolvable sutures, thus, one may not have to visit the doctor for their removal. Apart from this, a patient may be shown some arm exercises that need to be carried out, in case of lymph node removal. The patient is allowed to go home in a few hours. It is advisable to have a friend or family member along, as the patient is not advised to drive after the surgery.

Once home, make sure you take ample of rest before resuming your daily activities. Take the medications advised as and when advised. It is important to wear a good supportive bra to reduce any breast movement that may cause pain. Continue with the exercises and keep an eye on signs of infection. If you notice any unusual bleeding, rash, pain, skin reddening, fever, etc. contact your doctor immediately.

Results of Lumpectomy

The pathology report of the mass removed will be available in a couple of weeks. The report will be given to the patient during the follow-up visit. According the result, the patient will be advised if further treatment is required. The treatments, if required, include mastectomy or radiation therapy.


The prognosis depends on the type of cancer one has. If it was a benign tumor, lumpectomy will help remove the abnormal mass. In case of cancer cells, the patient may have to undergo further treatment, even mastectomy.

Lumpectomy is very useful in saving maximum breast tissue. Also, it is cosmetically preferred method over mastectomy, when the lump or cancer is found to be in its initial stages. Speak to your doctor in detail about the pros and cons of the surgery, before you decide which is the best treatment in your case.

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Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: February 27, 2015