What is a lumpectomy?

Lumpectomy is a breast-conserving surgery to remove the cancer cells, so most of your breast remains intact.

There will be one incision on the breast for the lumpectomy procedure; you may have a second incision under the arm for a sentinel lymph node biopsy, or for removal of the lymph nodes.

If you are having a lumpectomy, you will more than likely need radiation therapy later, after you heal.

What to expect


Before lumpectomy surgery

A week or more before the procedure, you will have an exam and routine tests. Before the lumpectomy surgery:

  • Sign any consent forms.
  • Tell your physician about any medications, herbs or supplements you are currently taking.
  • Avoid eating or drinking for eight to 12 hours before your surgery.
  • Arrange for to have someone drive you home after surgery.
  • Bring a soft shirt that buttons in front to wear home.
  • Talk to the anesthesia care provider; he or she will explain how you will be kept pain-free during surgery.

During lumpectomy surgery

Your surgeon will make an incision near the tumor that will be removed during the lumpectomy surgery, as well as the surrounding margin of normal tissue.

A second incision may also be made under the arm to remove some of the nearby axillary lymph nodes; these are checked to see if the cancer cells have spread to them.

When the lumpectomy surgery is finished, the incisions will be closed using stitches, and a gauze dressing will cover the incisions.

Right after lumpectomy surgery

You will wake up in the recovery room, and you may have an IV line for fluids and medicines; pain medications will be given to you as needed. A nurse will check your temperature, pulse and blood pressure, and you’ll likely go home the same day after the lumpectomy.

You will be given instructions on how to care for the incision(s), what kind of pain medications you should use and how to take care of yourself as you recover. Make sure you understand all the instructions and know when you need to see your physician next.

When to call your physician

Call your physician right away if you have any of the following symptoms after surgery:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Increased pain, warmth, drainage, swelling or redness at the incision(s)
  • A cough or shortness of breath
  • Pain in the chest or calf
  • Bleeding that soaks the dressing
  • Any other problems your physician asked you to watch for and report

After hours care

Be sure to know how to reach your physician if you have any problems, and know how to get help after office hours, on weekends and on holidays.