1 What is a Lumpectomy?

A surgery to remove abnormal tissue or cancer from your breast is called lumpectomy.

This procedure is also called excisional biopsy by doctors, or breast-conserving surgery or wide local excision. In this procedure, only a portion of the breast of the patient will be removed.

Normal or clean margins of breast tissue around the lump will also be removed to make sure that all abnormal tissue or cancer is removed.

Lumpectomy is also used as the first treatment for women who has early-stage breast cancer and to confirm or rule out cancer. Radiation therapy will occur after lumpectomy if cancer is found.

2 Reasons for Procedure

To remove the abnormal tissue or cancer is the main reason of lumpectomy and at the same time to preserve the appearance of your breast. It can also help in lowering the risk of recurring breast cancer.

If your doctor found in your biopsy that you have cancer, he will recommend lumpectomy. It can also be used for precancerous and noncancerous breast abnormalities.

You cannot undergo this procedure if you:

  • have a history of systematic lupus erythematosus which is a chronic inflammatory disease that can worsen if you undergo radiation treatments
  • have a history of scleroderma which is a disease that hardens skin and other tissues
  • have had a radiation therapy in the breast area
  • have two or more tumors in different areas of your breast which cannot be removed with a single wide excision
  • do not have access to radiation therapy
  • have small breasts but large tumor
  • have cancer that spread all over your breast and overlying skin

3 Potential Risks

The possible risks of side effects of lumpectomy include:

  • infection
  • bleeding
  • temporary swelling
  • pain
  • tenderness
  • change in the appearance and shape of the breast
  • formation of hard scar tissue at the surgical area

4 Preparing for your Procedure

In order to prepare for the lumpectomy, you and your doctor will discuss the benefits and risks of the procedure.

He will ask you questions, and at the same time, you can ask him questions that are not clear to you.

Tell your doctor if you are taking any medicines, vitamins and supplements for they might interfere with the surgery.

Your doctor will give you pre-surgical restrictions which include:

  • do not eat and drink 8 to 12 hours before the surgery
  • stop taking blood-thinning medicines a week before the surgery to reduce the risk of bleeding
  • ask a family member or a close friend to be with you throughout the surgery and to take you home
  • check with your insurance company if the surgical procedure is covered

5 What to Expect

Read on to learn more about what to expect before, during, and after your lumpectomy.

Your doctor will locate the abnormal tissue in your breast. Your radiologist will place a tiny marker in your breast during the biopsy if your breast abnormality was detected on a mammogram and confirmed with a biopsy.

A radioactive marker will be inserted in your breast before surgery and then passed down to the marker. This will be used to guide the doctor or surgeon to the area that needs to be removed.

The marker procedure might not be necessary if you have a mass or lump in your breast because the abnormal area can easily be found.

This procedure is done with a general anesthesia, meaning you are unconscious the whole time.

Removals of lymph nodes include:

Sentinel lymph node biopsy – your doctor will remove up to two nodes into sentinel nodes to be checked for cancer;

Axillary node dissection – your doctor will remove lymph nodes from your armpit on the side of the tumor. Your doctor will first inject a blue dye in the area where there is a tumor, the dye then travels to the sentinel node.

This is done so your surgeon can see the tumor. Your doctor will discuss with you further treatment such as radiation if cancer is found. But if there are no tumors found, there will be no need to remove other lymph nodes.

Your doctor will make a cut in the area of the tumor and remove it along with some of the surrounding tissue. He will then send it to the laboratory for analysis.

He will close the incisions by using stitches. You can ask your doctor if you can choose between stitches that dissolve or will be removed.

There will be a team who will monitor your breathing, pulse and blood pressure during recovery time.

You might need to stay at the hospital for up to two days if you are experiencing bleeding and if you had an axillary node excision.

Mostly sentinel node biopsy and lumpectomy is an outpatient procedure.

6 Procedure Results

Your doctor will call you for the results of your pathology. This will be given to you two weeks after the lumpectomy.

Your doctor might suggest the following if you need further treatment:

  • more surgery if you are not yet cancer-free
  • a radiation oncologist to discuss radiation treatment
  • a medical oncologist to discuss other treatments such as hormone therapy
  • a support group or counselor to help you deal with your condition

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