Fighting breast cancer with breast-conserving surgery (lumpectomy)



  1. Lumpectomy is the preferred option for early-stage breast cancer
  2. This surgery allows patients to keep most of their chest
  3. Many patients would require radiation therapy after surgery

National Cancer Awareness Day 2020: November 7 is celebrated as National Cancer Awareness Day. Breast cancer is the most common cause of cancer in women, affecting 2.1 million women annually, and is also the cause of the highest number of cancer-related deaths among women. In India, cases are steadily increasing due to increased life expectancy, urbanization and changing lifestyles. Although breast cancer rates are higher in women in more developed regions, cases are increasing every year in almost every region worldwide. Early detection is thus crucial for improving outcomes and survival. Early diagnosis and screening are two early detection strategies for breast cancer. Early diagnosis strategies aim to provide timely access to cancer treatment and improve access to effective diagnostic services. Screening consists of testing before symptoms appear. Some of the breast cancer screening tools include mammography, clinical breast examination, and breast self-exam.

Breast Cancer and Lumpectomy: What You Need to Know

If the tests confirm breast cancer, the oncologist will develop a treatment plan to treat the cancer. The most common surgery for breast cancer is modified radical mastectomy (MRM), in which the breast is completely removed with or without reconstruction. The other option is breast conserving surgery (BCS), also known as lumpectomy, in which only the tumor is removed and the rest of the breast is left intact. According to a study published in the Journal of Global Oncology, patients who undergo mastectomy (MS) may have a significantly reduced survival compared to patients who opt for breast-conserving surgery (BCS).

Also read: National Cancer Awareness Day: Lifestyle Choices That Can Help Reduce Your Cancer Risk

BCS involves the removal of the breast tumor along with a border of the normal breast tissue or lymph nodes around it. How much is taken out depends on factors such as the size and location of the tumor. BCS is a good option for patients with early-stage breast cancer. This surgery allows patients to keep most of their chest, but it is likely that many of the patients will require radiation therapy after BCS. Some women may also go for other treatments, such as hormone therapy or chemotherapy. Women who have had a mastectomy for early-stage cancer are less likely to receive radiation, but they may also be referred to a radiation oncologist for evaluation, depending on their situation and case. A BCS is not recommended for those who have conditions that do not allow radiotherapy treatment or if the patients themselves are against radiotherapy.

Lumpectomy allows patients to keep most of their breasts
Photo credit: iStock

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A lumpectomy removes the tumor while preserving the normal appearance of the breast, and is usually performed under general anesthesia. Accurate localization of the tumor is important to perform the procedure successfully and to minimize the amount of breast tissue that needs to be removed. Side effects of the surgery may include bleeding, infection, pain, temporary swelling, tenderness, formation of hard scar tissue at the surgery site, change in the shape and appearance of the breast, or nerve pain in the chest wall, armpit, and/or arm.

A lumpectomy is usually performed in an outpatient surgery center and does not necessarily require an overnight stay in the hospital. In most cases, after returning home, patients can continue most of their basic activities and can often resume normal activities within two weeks. However, some women may need more help at home, depending on the extent of the surgery. It is also important that patients ask their doctor to guide them in the management and care after treatment that suits their needs and lifestyle. In addition, it is advisable to have regular checkups whether the person has undergone treatment for breast cancer or has not been diagnosed with cancer. Early detection ensures timely treatment and care and increases the chance of successfully fighting the cancer.

Also read: Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2020: Know the Importance of Breast Self-Exam and Early Diagnosis

(Dr. Sandip Bipte, Consultant, Breast Cancer Surgery, Apollo Cancer Center, Navi Mumbai)

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