Related Media: Mastectomy Lumpectomy
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Lumpectomy is the removal of part of the breast. It is considered a breast-conserving surgery.
Lumpectomy may be combined with a procedure to sample lymph nodes in the area (axillary dissection or
sentinel node biopsy).
Reasons for Procedure
This procedure is done to treat
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
- Accumulation of blood in the wound
- Accumulation of clear fluid in the wound
Lymphedema—swelling of the arm caused by accumulation of fluid in lymph nodes
- Numbness of the nipple or underarm skin
- Change in the size and/or shape of the breast
- Blood clots
- Reaction to anesthesia
Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
- Poor nutrition
- Recent or long-term illness
- Use of certain medications
- Characteristics of the tumor to be removed
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Your doctor will likely do the following:
- Physical exam
Fine needle biopsy
to test the breast tissue for cancer
- Blood and urine tests
- Wire-localization procedure—if the tumor was visible on mammogram, but is not able to be felt, the doctor will use a wire to mark the tumor
Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to 1 week before the procedure.
Do not eat or drink anything for 8-12 hours before surgery, unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
General anesthesia—you will be asleep during the procedure
Description of Procedure
A small cut will be made in the breast. The tumor will be cut out, along with some of the surrounding tissue. Another incision near the armpit may be made so that lymph nodes can be removed. The nipple and areola will not be removed. Plastic tubes for drainage may be inserted. The incisions will be closed with stitches.
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Immediately After Procedure
Right after the procedure, you will be in a recovery room where your blood pressure, pulse, and breathing will be monitored. Recovery may also include:
- Pain medications
- Antibiotics to prevent infection
- Medication to prevent blood clots
Removed tissue will be examined. The findings may determine if any further surgery is needed. If you had cancer and it has spread,
may be needed.
How Long Will It Take?
About 1-3 hours
Will It Hurt?
Anesthesia will prevent pain during the procedure. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.
The breast may change in size or shape after lumpectomy. There may be local skin discoloration from dye used to localize lymph nodes for biopsy. The dye may also discolor your urine for a short time after surgery.
Self-care measures and medications will help ease discomfort. Activity may be restricted for up to 1 month, but complete rest is not necessary. The care staff will help you with exercises to help maintain arm strength and prevent lymphedema. To prevent infection at the incision site, follow instructions on how to clean and care for the wound.
Call Your Doctor
Contact your doctor if your recovery is not progressing as expected or you develop complications, such as:
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge from the incision site
- If you have drains, report any problems that your doctor has discussed with you
- Oozing or discharge from nipples on either breast
- A lump, redness, or swelling in either breast
- If lymph nodes were removed: redness, warmth, swelling, stiffness, or hardness in the arm or hand
- Persistent nausea and/or vomiting
- Pain that you cannot control with the medications you've been given
- Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
- Pain and/or swelling in your feet, calves, or legs
- Symptoms of depression that last at least 2 weeks or longer
- New or unexpected symptoms
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Cancer Society
Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation
Canadian Cancer Society
Breast cancer in women. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated November 7, 2014. Accessed November 26, 2014.
Exercises after breast surgery. American Cancer Society website. Available at:
http://www.cancer.org/cancer/breastcancer/moreinformation/exercises-after-breast-surgery. Updated June 19, 2013. Accessed November 26, 2014.
Lumpectomy. Surgery Encyclopedia website. Available at: http://www.surgeryencyclopedia.com/La-Pa/Lumpectomy.html. Accessed November 26, 2014.
Lumpectomy: What to expect. Breast Cancer website. Available at: http://www.breastcancer.org/treatment/surgery/lumpectomy/expectations. Updated September 17, 2012. Accessed November 26, 2014.
1/22/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Torres Lacomba M, Yuste Sánchez MJ, Zapico Goñi A, et al. Effectiveness of early physiotherapy to prevent lymphoedema after surgery for breast cancer: randomised, single blinded, clinical trial.