What is a Lumpectomy? – Understanding Lumpectomy Surgery

What is a Lumpectomy?

When learning about breast cancer, you may ask ‘What is a Lumpectomy’? Lumpectomy surgery is the removal of the part of the breast with cancer along with some surrounding tissue. The surgery is also known as breast-conserving surgery because, unlike mastectomy, which removes the entire breast, lumpectomy attempts to preserve the breast as much as possible and maintain its appearance.

Lumpectomy surgery is often the first treatment option for women with early-stage breast cancer. The surgery has been proven as effective as mastectomy in removing cancer and preventing recurrence in that early stage, according to the American Cancer Society.

How does it work?

During the surgery, the cancerous tumor and a small amount of normal tissue around the lump, called clean margins, is removed as a precaution against recurrence.

The procedure begins when the surgeon locates the area of the breast with the abnormality. It may have been marked during a biopsy with a tiny marker or clip in the breast. If the lump cannot be easily felt through the skin, a thin wire or radioactive marker may need to be inserted in the breast before the surgery and passed down to the marker. The surgeon makes an incision over the tumor or the area with the wire, removes the tumor and surrounding tissue and sends it to the pathologist for review. The surgeon then closes the surgical area using stitches that will either dissolve or be removed later.

As with all surgeries, lumpectomy has its risks of side effects, including bleeding, infection, temporary swelling, tenderness, pain, formation of hard scar tissue and possible distortion of the breast if a large portion is removed.

In most cases, the lumpectomy surgery is an outpatient procedure and the patient is released the same day. They usually can return to their regular activities within 2 weeks after surgery.

Sources: American Cancer Society, Breastcancer.org, Mayo Clinic   

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