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Breast Cancer and Lumpectomy

Written by sshowalter, FoundHealth.

Lumpectomy, wide excision, segmentectomy, and partial mastectomy are known as breast-conserving surgeries. Only the malignant area and a small portion of the surrounding healthy tissue are removed. Sometimes, lymph nodes under the arm are also removed (axillary dissection). This procedure is almost always followed by a course of radiation therapy.

Effect of Lumpectomy on Breast Cancer

Today, breast-conserving surgeries are the preferred type of surgery for eligible women in the early stages of cancer. Studies have shown that breast-conserving surgeries combined with radiation therapy are just as effective as mastectomy in the early stages of breast cancer. However, not all women with stage I or II breast cancer are eligible for this type of surgery. Conditions that might make you ineligible for this procedure include:

  • Multiple tumors in different areas of the breast (multicentric tumors)
  • One tumor spread throughout the breast (diffuse tumor)
  • Tumor located directly beneath the nipple
  • A tumor that is large in relation to breast size
  • History of scleroderma, systemic lupus, or dermatopolymyositis
  • Current pregnancy in the first or second trimester (The radiation used with breast-conserving surgery can injure a fetus.)
  • Previous high-dose radiation therapy to the affected breast

Read more details about Lumpectomy.

Possible Complications

Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have a lumpectomy, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:

  • Accumulation of blood in the wound
  • Accumulation of clear fluid in the wound
  • Infection
  • 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:

  • Obesity
  • Poor nutrition
  • Smoking
  • Recent or long-term illness
  • Use of certain medicines
  • Characteristics of the tumor to be removed

Call Your Doctor

After arriving home, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:

  • 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
  • Nausea and/or vomiting that you cannot control with the medicines you were given after surgery or that persist for more than two days after discharge from the hospital
  • Pain that you cannot control with the medicines you have been given
  • Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
  • Depression
  • New, unexplained symptoms

If you think you have an emergency, CALL 911.


Breast cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: . Accessed January 27, 2006.

Breast cancer. Womens' website. Available at: . Accessed January 27, 2006.

Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation website. Available at: . Accessed January 31, 2006.

Way LW, Doherty GM. Current Surgical Diagnosis and Treatment . 10th ed. Appleton and Lange; 1994.

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