What is the Difference Between a Mastectomy and Lumpectomy?

Receiving a diagnosis of breast cancer can not only be devastating, emotionally, it can also lead to a variety of other physical health concerns. Being in control of what is going to happen to your body following a diagnosis of breast cancer is vital for your emotional wellness and wellbeing, and so it is important to read up on your treatment and understand as much as you possibly can.


When a tumour is diagnosed, doctors will generally decide that it has to be removed. What doctors have to decide, however, is whether to remove the entire breast, or just a small amount of tissue. When a tumour and small amount of surrounding tissue is removed, this is known as a lumpectomy. When the entire breast is removed, this is known as a mastectomy.


Research has shown that with stage one or two breast cancer, the outcomes for lumpectomy and mastectomy surgery (plus radiation) are the same, so the choice may well be up to you.


When a lumpectomy is performed, the surgeon only removes the tumour plus a margin of surrounding tissue. The aim is to create something called ‘clean margins’ – meaning that when tested, the tissue around the removed area shows up as being clear of cancer. If this does not occur, further surgery will then be required to remove more tissue or to do a mastectomy.


Following a lumpectomy, patients are almost always given several weeks of radiation therapy, in order to kill any remaining cells. There may also be chemotherapy after the surgery, which is known as adjuvant chemotherapy. Sometimes chemo is given before surgery (neoadjuvant chemo) in order to reduce the size of the tumour before going in for a surgical removal.


Both lumpectomy and mastectomy surgery has some risks, and your doctor will be able to advise you on issues such as pain medication and surgical dressings.

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