Lumpectomy 101

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A lumpectomy is a procedure to remove a small tumor from the breast. It usually involves only one or two incisions and removes any cancerous material.

When someone is diagnosed with breast cancer a common treatment is to get a lumpectomy. Many people have heard the term but aren't sure what it really entails. Learn about the procedure here:

The surgery
The first step in a lumpectomy is to locate the tumor. If you can easily see or feel it, the surgeon will mark it, and you will head to the operating room. If the surgeon cannot easily find the tumor, he or she may use a mammogram or ultrasound to find it. They will mark the tumor on your breast, and then they will give you an anesthetic. It may be local or general – most patients prefer to be unconscious during the procedure. Once you are under, a surgeon makes a cut in the breast to remove the tumor and a small amount of healthy tissue surrounding the cancerous area. Then he or she stitches up the incision. Some patients also require lymph node removal to keep the cancer from spreading. If this is the case, the surgeon will also make an incision under the armpit to take out the lymph nodes. The cut is stitched up and the surgery is complete. 

The doctor removes some healthy tissue during the procedure in order to be sure that all of the troublesome cells have been taken out. In most cases, a lumpectomy leaves the breast nearly identical to what it originally looked like because such a small area of tissue is removed. Any tumorous material that was taken from the body is then sent to a pathologist who examines the cells and runs tests to learn more about the issues. Your doctor will be given the information they learn in the form of a pathology report. Your physician will go over the results with you to talk about further treatment options and discuss what was found.

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