Lumpectomy: Breast Cancer Surgery
Lumpectomy means the surgical removal of a malignant tumour from the breast and is now the standard treatment for women with early stage breast cancer.
It’s a relatively straightforward procedure in which the surgeon removes the lump along with some of the surrounding tissue and in certain cases some of the lymph nodes. Surgery is normally followed by a course of radiation to destroy any remaining cancer cells.
For many women the option of a lumpectomy is infinitely preferable to the surgical removal of the entire breast which was the standard treatment a few years ago. The obvious advantage is that most of your breast remains in tact and the success rates for women with early stage cancer are comparable with those of women who have undergone a mastectomy.
Depending on the stage and aggressiveness of your cancer you may be offered the choice of a lumpectomy or a mastectomy. That’s pretty tough for some women who may not feel up to making such a dramatic decision about their own treatment. There are those who prefer the old school approach of surgeons who simply tell them what needs to be done without any expectation of discussion on the subject. And yes such surgeons still exist albeit in dwindling numbers!
But for your own peace of mind, both now and in the future, it’s a good idea to ensure you’re as well informed as possible about the options available to you before choosing the course of treatment that you feel most comfortable with.
Lumpectomy may not be an option for you – for example the tumour may be too large, there may be more than one cancerous tumour or it may be impractical for you to attend hospital for daily radiation treatments following surgery. You need to discuss these and other factors with your doctor and if you’re still undecided about the best way forward, don’t hesitate to seek a second opinion.
Some women who are ideal candidates for a lumpectomy still opt for a mastectomy on the basis that they just want to “get rid of the wretched thing” and can’t bear the thought of the cancer still lurking in the breast after less radical surgery. Other women will go to almost any lengths to preserve their breast which may be vital to their own sense of femininity and identity.
A lumpectomy normally takes less than 40 minutes and is these days sometimes performed under a local anaesthetic with added sedation. You could be home the same day but then be prepared for a nerve-wracking wait for your pathology reports which will show whether the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or elsewhere.
Though the survival rate of women who undergo a lumpectomy with follow-up radiation is high, especially in cases where the lymph nodes are unaffected, there’s always a chance that you may have to face the removal of your breast at a later stage if there’s a recurrence of the cancer.