It is important to understand both of these complex procedures so that you can make the right decision for your specific needs. Deciding between a mastectomy and lumpectomy can be incredibly difficult. It is also important to remember that a lumpectomy isn’t an option for everyone with breast cancer.
Lumpectomy (lum-PEK-tuh-me) is surgery to remove cancer or other abnormal tissue from your breast.
Lumpectomy is also called breast-conserving surgery because only a portion of the breast is removed. Doctors may also refer to lumpectomy as an excisional biopsy.
During lumpectomy, a small amount of normal tissue around the lump (also described as clean or normal margins of breast tissue) also is taken to help ensure that all the cancer or other abnormal tissue is removed.
Lumpectomy is also a first treatment option for some women with early-stage breast cancer. In cases where cancer is found, lumpectomy usually is followed by radiation therapy to the breast to reduce the chances of cancer returning.
Dr. Gunn may recommend lumpectomy if a biopsy has shown that you have cancer and that the cancer is believed to be small and early stage. Lumpectomy may also be used to remove certain noncancerous or precancerous breast abnormalities.
If you and Dr. Gunn decide lumpectomy is right for you, you’ll meet with her a few days before your lumpectomy. Bring a list of questions to remind you to cover everything you want to know. Make sure you understand the procedure and its risks.
You’ll be given instructions about presurgical restrictions and other things you need to know. In most cases, the surgery will be done as an outpatient procedure, so you can go home the same day.
Tell Dr. Gunn about any medications, vitamins or supplements you’re taking in case something could interfere with the surgery. In general, to prepare for your lumpectomy, it’s recommended that you:
• Stop taking aspirin or other blood-thinning medication. Your doctor may ask you to stop taking it a week or longer before the surgery to reduce your risk of bleeding.
• Check with your insurance company to determine whether the procedure is covered and if there are restrictions on where you can have it done.
• Don’t eat or drink 8 to 12 hours before surgery, especially if you’re going to have general anesthesia.
• Bring someone with you. Besides offering support, another person is needed to drive you home and listen to postoperative instructions because it may take several hours for the effects of the anesthesia to wear off.
You may not be a candidate for lumpectomy if you:
• Have a history of scleroderma, a group of diseases that harden skin and other tissues and make healing after lumpectomy difficult
• Have a history of systemic lupus erythematosus, a chronic inflammatory disease that can worsen if you undergo radiation treatments
• Have two or more tumors in different quadrants of your breast that cannot be removed with a single wide excision, which could affect the appearance of your breast
• Have previously had radiation treatment to the breast region, which would make further radiation treatments too risky
• Have cancer spread throughout your breast and overlying skin, since lumpectomy would be unlikely to remove the cancer completely
• Have a large tumor and small breasts, which may cause a poor cosmetic result
• Don’t have access to radiation therapy