If cancer has been detected, Dr. William A. Ball, Jr., may perform a surgical lumpectomy, the removal of the breast tumor and some of the normal tissue that surrounds it. Lumpectomy is a form of “breast-conserving” or "breast preservation" surgery, as is partial mastectomy. Technically, a lumpectomy is a partial mastectomy, because part of the breast tissue is removed. But the amount of tissue removed can vary greatly. Cane River Surgery Center in Natchitoches, Louisiana encourages cancer patients to ask questions and make sure you have a clear understanding from Dr. Ball about how much of your breast may be gone after surgery and what kind of scar you will have.

What happens during lumpectomy surgery?

The lumpectomy surgery itself should take about 15-40 minutes. Dr. Ball will probably operate with a kind of electric scalpel that uses heat to minimize bleeding (an electro cautery knife). Most surgeons use curved incisions, like a smile or a frown, that follow the natural curve of your breast to allow for better healing. If the tumor can be seen or felt, the surgeon will remove it along with a rim of healthy tissue around it.

Sometimes, but not always, a rubber tube called a drain will be surgically inserted into your breast area or armpit to collect excess fluid that can accumulate in the space where the tumor was. The drain is connected to a plastic bulb that creates suction to help remove fluid. Finally, Dr. Ball will stitch the incision closed and dress the wound.

After lumpectomy

You’ll be moved to the recovery room after lumpectomy surgery, where trained staff with Cane River Surgery Center will monitor your heart rate, body temperature, and blood pressure. Staying overnight in the hospital is not usually necessary with lumpectomy, unless you're also having lymph nodes removed.

As you start to feel more awake, one of our nurses will give you information about recovering at home:

  • Taking pain medication: You may be given pain medication in the recovery room, and your surgeon will probably give you a prescription to take with you when you leave the hospital. You might want to get it filled on your way home or have a friend or family member get it filled for you as soon as you are home. You may not need the medication, but it’s good to have it on hand in case you do.
  • Caring for the bandage or dressing over your incision: Ask your surgeon how to take care of the lumpectomy bandage. Sometimes, the surgeon will ask that you wait until your first follow-up visit so that he or she can remove the bandage.
  • Caring for a surgical drain: If you have a drain in your breast area or armpit, the drain might be removed before you leave the hospital. Sometimes, however, a drain stays inserted until the first follow-up visit with the doctor, usually 1-2 weeks after surgery. If you’re going home with a drain inserted, you’ll need to empty the fluid from the detachable drain bulb a few times a day. Make sure your surgeon gives you instructions on caring for the drain before you leave the hospital.
  • Stitches and staples: Most surgeons use sutures or stitches that dissolve over time, so there's no longer any need to have them removed. But occasionally, you'll see the end of the suture poking out of the incision like a whisker. If this happens, your surgeon can easily remove it. Surgical staples, another way of closing the incision, are removed during the first office visit after surgery.
  • Exercising your arm: Your surgeon may show you an exercise routine you can do after surgery to prevent arm and shoulder stiffness on the side where you had the lumpectomy. Usually, you will start the exercises the morning after surgery. Some exercises should be avoided until drains are removed. Ask your surgeon any questions you may have to make sure the exercise routine is right for you. Your surgeon should also give you written, illustrated instructions on how to do the exercises.
  • Recognizing signs of infection: Your surgeon should explain how to tell if you have an infection in your incision and when to call the office.

For more information visit www.cancer.gov, or www.breastcancer.org or contact the Cane River Surgery Center in Natchitoches, Louisiana toll free 877-924-2555.

Click HERE to see an animation of a Breast Lumpectomy and Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy.