A lumpectomy is a surgical procedure to remove an area of breast tissue or a lump in the breast. It is the most common form of breast cancer surgery today. When used as part of the treatment plan for breast cancer or ductal carcinoma in situ, it is also called 'breast conserving' or 'breast preservation' surgery since the surgeon removes only the part of your breast where the tumor is located and some of the surrounding tissue. Lymph nodes may or may not be removed during a lumpectomy. Research has demonstrated that many women with early-stage breast cancer who have a lumpectomy along with radiation therapy can lead long, healthy lives after treatment. The same research has also demonstrated that women treated with lumpectomy and radiation therapy have the same survival rates as women treated with mastectomy. Whether or not to have a lumpectomy with radiation vs. a mastectomy (total breast removal) depends upon many factors and your team will help you decide the best course of treatment for your diagnosis.
Most women prefer to have a lumpectomy vs. a mastectomy, in which the entire breast is removed. In our practice, 80 percent of women have lumpectomies. When cancer is present, a lumpectomy is almost always followed by five to seven weeks of radiation therapy to the rest of the breast. The ideal patients for this course of treatment are typically women with only one site of cancer in their breast and a tumor less than four centimeters (about an inch and half), removed with clear margins (no cancer cells in the tissue surrounding the tumor). However, since every woman is unique and there are many factors weighed into each patient's treatment plan, you should talk with your team about whether a lumpectomy plus radiation is appropriate for you.
A lumpectomy can be done with local anesthesia with sedation or general anesthesia. The type of anesthesia will be decided jointly between you, your surgeon and the anesthesiologist. The surgeon makes an incision and removes the lump along with surrounding normal breast tissue. The incision is then closed with plastic surgical techniques to optimize the cosmetic appearance of the scar. If the tumor cannot be felt or seen, a procedure called needle or wire localization will be performed prior to surgery to help identify and mark the tumor site. A radiologist in Breast Imaging uses X-ray images to guide a wire (via a needle) into the suspicious area of the breast. The patient is then brought to the operating room where the surgeon removes the abnormal area of the breast, using the wire as a guide. Your Comprehensive Breast Health Center team will answer all your questions regarding what you can expect before, during and after a lumpectomy.
Learn more about the patient-centered, high-quality approach to breast cancer care provided to patients diagnosed and treated at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center.