A lumpectomy is a surgical procedure in which a breast tumor and a small amount of tissue around it are removed. It is also sometimes referred to as a “partial mastectomy.” The surgeon tries to completely remove the cancer and yet leave the breast looking much the same as it did before surgery.

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The purpose for removing a little normal tissue surrounding the tumor is to ensure “clear margins” – tissue that does not contain cancer. In most cases, lymph nodes are also removed, in order to determine whether the cancer has spread. The lymph nodes are located in the armpit area.

Women who choose lumpectomy as a treatment option for invasive breast cancer must also undergo radiation therapy that treats the whole breast. The radiation is intended to destroy any cancer cells that may not have been removed by surgery, and lessen the risk of cancer coming back in the remaining breast.

“Is there a greater risk of cancer returning if a breast-conserving option such as lumpectomy is chosen?”

Thanks to early detection in an increasing number of cases, most women can choose lumpectomy and still enjoy the same long-term survival rates as those who undergo total removal of the breast. However, neither option provides a 100 percent guarantee that cancer will not return. Both entail lifelong medical follow-up and mandatory monthly breast self-exams.

“What are the surgical risks associated with lumpectomy?”

As with almost any other surgical procedure, there is a risk of infection, poor wound healing, bleeding, and a reaction to the pain medicines used in the surgery. Although the procedure is intended to minimize it, a woman may still have a change in the shape of the breast that was treated.