What is it?
Breast Lumpectomy is a surgical procedure to remove a small area of the breast tissue, which is suspected to be cancerous. It is also referred to as partial mastectomy, or wedge resection, among other names.
If the breast abnormality is detected in a mammogram and is confirmed with a biopsy, the radiologist will place a tiny marker or clip in the patient’s breast during the biopsy. A thin wire or radioactive marker is then inserted in the breast just before the surgery. The surgeon then uses this wire as a guide to the precise area that needs to be removed during the surgery.
The involved breast, chest, and upper arm are first cleaned. Then the surgeon will make an incision over the targeted malignancy or around the areola if the tumor is accessible from that site. The tumor is then cut out along with a small layer of tissue surrounding the tumor. The goal is to remove the tumor and the marginal tissue while damaging the breast as little as possible.
The surgeon may make a separate incision near the underarm to get a sample or to remove axillary lymph nodes, which will then be tested for cancerous cells. These tests will help the doctor determine if cancer has spread from the breast to other parts of the body.
The surgeon might opt for any of the following types of surgery:
- Axillary Node Dissection: is a surgical procedure that is performed to remove lymph nodes from the armpit.
- Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy: is performed to identify the sentinel lymph node. In this procedure, the surgeon injects a radioactive substance, a blue dye, or both near the tumor. Then a probe is used to find the sentinel lymph node containing the radioactive substance or the lymph node stained with dye. The surgeon then removes the sentinel node to check the presence of cancer cells. The breast will then be covered with a sterile bandage during the procedure.
If lymph nodes were removed, a drain might be placed in the underarm area to remove the excess fluid. The drain will be under a sterile bandage and can be easily removed after surgery when the drainage is less. If the procedure requires the removal of more tissue, the recovery can take as long as 6 weeks.
During the recovery period, it is best to avoid any sort of activity, which includes bouncing movements like running. Lifting is to be avoided during the weeks following the recovery, as any activity, which requires the arms to be raised over the head, can put a strain on the incision and cause more pain.
If the lump is found to be cancerous, radiation treatments are suggested to treat any cancerous areas that may not have been found during the surgery.
- In rare cases, some patients might experience the following:
- Temporary swelling
- Hard scar tissue at the surgical site
- Change in the appearance of the breast.