What is a lumpectomy?

Lumpectomy and partial mastectomy are breast-conserving operations in which the surgeon removes the tumor together with some normal breast tissue surrounding it. Breast-conserving procedures can often be done with local anesthesia and sedation or under general anesthesia (being put to sleep) on an outpatient basis.

Women who have this surgery usually:

  • Have a single breast cancer tumor less than 5 cm in diameter.
  • Have enough tissue so that removing surrounding tissue would not leave a misshapen breast.
  • Are medically able to undergo surgery and follow-up radiation therapy.

Lumpectomy followed by radiation therapy is often considered the standard therapy for women who meet these criteria. Large studies have shown similar survival rates for both breast conservation with radiation and removal of the whole breast, but a lumpectomy gives a better cosmetic result.

Women who aren't candidates for lumpectomy plus radiation include those who:

  • Have had radiation to the same breast for an previous breast cancer.
  • Are pregnant and should avoid radiation.
  • Have multiple tumors in the breast.