Partial mastectomy is another name for a lumpectomy, a breast-conserving surgery that only removes the part of the breast that has cancer and a small rim around it to help prevent recurrence.
In comparison to a full mastectomy, which removes the entire breast, partial mastectomy aims to preserve the breast as much as possible without altering its appearance. The amount of breast removed in a partial mastectomy depends on the size and location of the tumor, among other factors.
Doctors recommend partial mastectomy when a biopsy shows the cancer is small and in its early stages. The surgery may also be a good option if the patient only has one area of cancer or multiple areas close enough to be removed without dramatically changing the look the breast. The patient also has to be willing to have radiation therapy following surgery and cannot have certain genetic predispositions or complicating disorders.
Partial mastectomy is a less invasive surgery than removing the breast completely and it has been proven as effective as mastectomy in removing cancer and preventing recurrence in early-stage breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Lumpectomy is often the first treatment option for women with the early form of cancer.
The procedure involves locating the area of the breast with the abnormality, removing it along with a band of surrounding tissue, and sending the removed area to the pathologist for analysis.
As with all surgeries, partial mastectomy 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.
The procedure is often performed in an outpatient surgical center with the patient released the same day. Most women can return to their regular activities within 2 weeks of surgery.
Sources: American Cancer Society, Breastcancer.org, Mayo Clinic, WebMD