A lumpectomy is the removal of a section of the breast that contains a lump–this lump is considered an area which is already cancerous or it is suspected of being cancerous. You may also hear this procedure called a breast saving or sparing procedure. This is because only a section of the breast is removed as opposed to mastectomy—which is when the whole breast is removed.
When a person is already diagnosed with early stage breast cancer, the lump and a small area around it will be removed so that it doesn’t spread to other tissues. How to prepare for the procedure? What are the risks?
Why Is Breast Lumpectomy Done?
A lumpectomy is a procedure for people who have an early detection. A lumpectomy is normally performed to examine suspect tissues and to remove early stage cancer before it spreads as well as removing abnormalities from the breast that could turn into cancer eventually. This is all done while maintaining the breast structure with minimal damage to the shape and appearance of the breasts.
Who Is not a Proper Candidate?
- Those who have no access to radiation therapy
- Have small breasts but a large tumor which may cause a cosmetic issue
- Cancer has spread throughout the breast
- Previous radiation treatment in the same region
- Have had multiple tumors in different areas of the breasts
- Have systemic lupus erythematous—an inflammatory disease that is chronic
- Have a history of scleroderma and diseases that harden skin
What Are the Risks of Breast Lumpectomy?
The risks that may follow after breast lumpectomy is as follows:
- Change in breast shape
- Pain and infection
- Tenderness and swelling which is temporary
- Formation of keloid scars which is hard skin at the site
How to Prepare for Breast Lumpectomy
You will meet with the surgeon a couple of days prior to the surgery for any instruction on what to do such as eating or fasting before surgery etc. You should prepare a list of questions as to what you can expect or any concerns you may have to offer for discussion.
There are very important things to do to prepare for your lumpectomy.
- It is imperative that you tell your doctor all medications that you are on prior to surgery. There are common pain killers and supplements that can interfere with the surgery and pose a threat to your life as well.
- Stop taking aspirin or other blood thinning medications. You may be asked to stop taking it a week or so prior as this will reduce bleeding risk.
- Call the insurance company. Find out if they cover it
- Do not drink for between 8-12 hours prior to surgery. It will interfere with the procedure and general anesthesia
- Take a buddy or a spouse. This person will listen to post-operative instructions and drive you home. Anesthesia can take a few hours to wear off.
What Happens During Breast Lumpectomy?
1. Locating the Area to Be Removed
If you have a small lump then during the diagnosing procedure the doctor will have marked off the location with a clip inside the breast. If you have a large lump then there is no need. Once located—the preparation for removal begins.
2. Preparing to Remove Lymph Node
A blue dye is injected into the lymph nodes around the mass so the doctor can see where they are. He may remove one or several to examine to determine if the cancer—should there be any found—has traveled to the lymph nodes.
3. During the Procedure
The lumpectomy is done under general anesthesia. An incision is made over the mass and the lymph nodes and the mass are removed. The incision is closed with sutures (stitches) that will either dissolve on their own or your doctor will remove them.
4. After the Procedure
After the surgery, you'll be taken to a recovery room. Your breathing, blood pressure and pulse will be monitored. You could be prescribed pain medication or an antibiotic. You may also experience numbness or pain in the area. Watch out for daily activities which could harm the surgical wound.
At this point nothing further is to be done apart from wait for the pathology report and determine whether you need any further treatment as listed below:
- Surgery. If the tissue around the mass were cancerous.
- Oncologist. If you need to discuss hormone therapy or other therapies.
- Radiation Oncologist. To discuss the need for the recommended therapy post-lumpectomy.
- Counselor or support group. For a coping mechanism.
Watch a video for more information on lumpectomy surgery: