Breast-conserving surgery (BCS) may be used as part of a treatment plan for breast cancer. It is sometimes called a lumpectomy or a partial mastectomy.
During BCS, only the part of the breast that has cancer is removed. The cancer lump and some breast tissue around the lump are removed. How much of the breast is removed will depend on the lump’s size, and where it is located.
The surgeon may also remove some of the lymph nodes under your arm to find out if the cancer has spread there. Breast cancer often spreads to these lymph nodes. It can then spread to other parts of the body.
Radiation therapy is usually given after BCS. This destroys cancer cells that may not have been removed during surgery. In some cases, chemotherapy and radiation are both given after BCS.
BCS may be done as part of treatment for breast cancer.
This surgery is an option for some women with a lump that is small and in 1 area. It’s also an option for many women with early stage breast cancers.
BCS removes a smaller part of your breast. You may worry that this might make your cancer more likely to return. But BCS can work just as well as surgery to remove the entire breast (mastectomy). Studies show that women who have BCS followed by radiation therapy have similar long-term survival rates as women who have a mastectomy. There may be other reasons for your doctor to recommend BCS.
All surgeries have some risk. Some possible complications of BCS include:
A clear fluid (seroma) is often present in the wound after BCS. This can be drained in the surgeon’s office and treated with compression if needed.
There may be other risks depending on your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your doctor before the surgery.
Talk with your doctor about how your breast may look after your surgery. Depending on how much of the breast is removed, it may look different afterward. Some type of reconstructive surgery may be an option. Or it may be possible to make your other breast a little smaller so that both breasts look more alike. The surgeon may even be able to do this during the BCS.
Talk with your doctor before surgery to know what to expect, and what your options are.
Your healthcare provider may have other instructions for you based on your medical condition.
BCS may be done on an outpatient basis. This means you go home the same day. Or it may be done as part of your stay in a hospital. Procedures may vary depending on your condition and your doctor's practices.
Generally, BCS follows this process:
After the procedure, you will be taken to the recovery room and watched closely. Your recovery process will vary depending on the type of procedure done and the anesthesia you are given. Once your blood pressure, pulse, and breathing are stable and you are alert, you will be taken to your hospital room.
You will likely go home the same day or in 1 to 2 days after BCS.
Once you are home, keep the surgical area clean and dry. Your doctor will give you specific bathing instructions. If adhesive strips were used, they should be kept dry. They often fall off in a few days.
The amount of pain you have will vary. It depends on the amount and location of tissue removed during surgery. Soreness should decrease over time. Take a pain reliever as advised by your doctor. Aspirin and some other pain medicines may increase your chance of bleeding. Be sure to take only recommended medicines.
Your doctor may instruct you to keep wearing a bra for support, for a period of time.
You will likely go back to your normal activities in 2 weeks. In the meantime, avoid doing anything strenuous. Don’t do things that involve using your arm too much, such as cleaning windows or vacuuming for a long time. Your doctor will tell you when you can start driving again and when you can go back to work.
BCS may be followed by radiation therapy. Your doctor will advise you about this, depending on your particular situation.
Tell your doctor if you have any of the following:
Your doctor may give you other instructions, depending on your situation.
Removing lymph nodes during BCS may affect how lymphatic fluid drains from your arm. Problems with lymphatic drainage can cause swelling in your arm. You may also be at greater risk for infection from injury to your arm. And there is a higher risk for blood clots in your armpit veins after surgery to the area.
You will have to follow certain safety steps for the rest of your life after lymph node removal. This will help prevent problems in the affected arm. These safety steps include:
Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know: