What Is a Lumpectomy?

A lumpectomy (sometimes called a partial mastectomy) is an operation that removes the cancerous area and a surrounding rim of healthy, normal tissue.  Remembering that local treatment means treating the “whole breast” and not just the lump, this procedure is usually followed by radiation therapy directed at the breast.

A lumpectomy is sometimes referred to as breast-conserving therapy because it attempts to maintain the breast’s size, shape and sensation. After a lumpectomy, Virtua breast surgeons sometimes use a margin probe to test the remaining breast tissue for cancerous cells. If cancerous cells are detected, more tissue is removed. This newly FDA-approved technology has the potential to reduce the need for additional surgical procedures.

Not everyone is a candidate for lumpectomy. Several factors about the tumor size, location and features of the tumor, the size of the breast, ability to get clear margins (a rim of normal tissue around the cancer), the potential cosmetic results and personal preferences all influence the final surgical decision.

A lumpectomy can be done as outpatient surgery and you can go home the same day. Sentinel node biopsy is commonly done at the time of lumpectomy.  If you have a lumpectomy with an axillary lymph node dissection at the same time, you may stay overnight in the hospital.

Updated January 14, 2022

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