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Lumpectomy: Procedure and Recovery


A Lumpectomy is a type of surgery performed when a breast tumor is found. It removes only the tumor and some of the surrounding tissue. This is a form of breast conserving surgery, which is an effort to save the breast from having to be completely removed. A lumpectomy is also sometimes called a partial mastectomy. This article will provide you with information on the lumpectomy procedure and some tips for recovery. It is not meant to constitute or replace medical advice.

The procedure. Ask your doctor for any pain medication prescriptions before your surgery, so you don’t have to worry about filling it after the lumpectomy. The day of your surgery, follow your doctor’s directions, especially concerning eating or drinking the night before.

When you get to the hospital, if your tumor cannot be seen or found, the doctor will use ultrasound or mammogram to locate and mark the tumor. He or she might possibly make a mark on your breast to show where the incision will be made. Then you will be given local or general anesthesia, depending on the surgery and the surgeon’s decision. Normally a lumpectomy takes about 40 minutes, although it can be faster or longer, again depending on the exact procedure being done, the size of the tumor, and other factors. The surgeon will use a scalpel to remove the tumor and some of the healthy tissue around it. You may or may not have a surgical drain inserted where the tumor was to collect excess fluid. Then your wound will be closed. Once in the recovery room, the hospital staff will monitor your vital signs (temperature, blood pressure, heart rate.) You don’t usually have to stay overnight in the hospital for a lumpectomy unless you had lymph nodes removed as well.

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Before you leave the hospital after your lumpectomy, you will be given information on pain medication, caring for your wound, caring for your surgical drain if you have one, exercising your arm, and how to recognize signs of infection.

Recovery. You will need to rest for at least a few days after your lumpectomy. Make sure you have enough help at home, family, friends or even professional care if necessary, so that you don’t pull your stitches. Take your pain medication as prescribed during recovery. Don’t take a shower or bath until your stitches (and possibly drain) have been removed, unless your doctor tells you it’s okay to do so. Wear a comfortable sports bra after your lumpectomy, both during the day and while you sleep, to minimize any movements that might cause pain. Begin exercising your arm the day after your surgery, unless your doctor directs you otherwise, performing the exercises provided. If you have a lot of pain, see signs of infection, or have any questions or concerns, call your doctor’s office immediately.

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