The surgical procedure

A lumpectomy is done under local or general anesthesia and usually takes one to two hours. Small metallic clips may be placed inside the breast to mark the area for the radiotherapist to treat. Lymph nodes are often examined at the same time as the breast tissue is removed, either by extending the incision to the armpit or by a separate small incision under the arm. Often, a blue dye or a small amount of radioactive material will be injected around the nipple area. These markers are taken up by the lymph nodes and help to identify which lymph nodes to remove (sentinel lymph node biopsy). The tissue that is removed from the breast is sent to the pathology laboratory where tests are done to identify the type of tumor, whether lymph nodes are involved by tumor, and to assess the tumor for hormone sensitivity (estrogen and progesterone receptors). In addition, other specialized tests that determine prognosis and treatment, such as Her-2 neu, and oncotyping may also be performed. It may take several days to identify the type of tumor and receive the results of the specialized tests.

Also before surgery, your surgeon should provide:

  • Specific instructions to follow the days before surgery.
  • An overview of the surgical procedure.
  • Information about recovery and follow-up care.

After surgery, you need to watch for complications such as infection, hematoma or lymphedema and swelling in your arm or hand. Call your surgeon immediately if you see signs of swelling, a buildup of fluid in the breast, redness, pain or other symptoms of infection.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy