If you have breast cancer, you’re probably feeling a wide range of emotions – including fear. It’s natural to be afraid of cancer, and to worry you might lose a breast.

But you can also feel hopeful. Most women survive breast cancer. And if your cancer was caught early, you may be a candidate for “breast-conserving surgery” (also known as lumpectomy).

What is a Lumpectomy?

A lumpectomy is a type of breast surgery. It goes by many names, including partial mastectomy, wide local excision and quadrantectomy. No matter what you call it, the goal is the same: to remove your cancer, while keeping as much of your breast as possible.

During the procedure, your surgeon will cut out the tumor plus a small amount of surrounding tissue. He or she may also need to remove lymph nodes from under your arm. Usually, most of the skin covering your breast (including your nipple and areola) will remain intact. Your doctor will let you know if it's necessary to remove your nipple and areola. In this case, you may be able to have them restored with breast reconstruction surgery.

You may be eligible for a lumpectomy if you meet several criteria, including:

  • Your tumor is small and has not started to spread.
  • You are willing and able to undergo radiation therapy. Most women who have a lumpectomy need radiation therapy after surgery.
  • You do not carry the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation. This increases your risk of breast cancer coming back.

Research has shown that having a lumpectomy with radiation is just as effective as having your breast removed (mastectomy).

What to Expect From a Lumpectomy

Your Mercy care team will make sure you understand what to expect before, during and after lumpectomy surgery. For example:

  • Your breast may look different after a lumpectomy. You may have a small scar or dimpled skin where the tumor was removed. Or the shape of your breast may change. If you’re concerned surgery will affect your breast size or symmetry, talk to your doctor before your lumpectomy. Mercy offers many breast reconstruction procedures. These include oncoplastic surgery techniques that reshape the breast at the time of your lumpectomy.
  • Besides radiation therapy, you might need other treatments to help prevent your cancer from returning. These may include hormone therapy or chemotherapy. Your doctor will help you understand what to expect from these treatments.

If you’re nervous about your cancer treatments, you’re not alone. But you can take comfort knowing Mercy is by your side. We’ll provide the support and encouragement you need to get through your lumpectomy, recovery and beyond.

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