What Is a Lumpectomy with Radiation?

H. Colledge
H. Colledge

A lumpectomy with radiation is a type of surgical procedure used to treat breast cancer. The lumpectomy part of the process involves removing the tumor together with a small amount of surrounding tissue. This means that most of the breast is preserved. Radiation treatment, or radiotherapy, is used after the lumpectomy to destroy any cancer cells which have been left behind. This type of breast preservation surgery is typically used for solitary, small tumors which are easy to remove.

Lumpectomy with radiation, or tylectomy, is frequently used to treat a type of carcinoma, or cancer, known as ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). Before a lumpectomy is performed, the doctor usually takes a sample of cells from the tumor using a fine needle. The cells are analyzed to determine whether they are cancerous. A benign tumor, which is not cancerous, may also be removed by lumpectomy, but radiotherapy is not required afterwards.

As a lumpectomy is often carried out under general anesthetic, patients may not be allowed to eat or drink in the hours leading up to surgery. During the operation, the surgeon tries to preserve the breast as much as possible. As well as removing the lump, the surgeon needs to remove enough of the surrounding tissue to check whether cancer cells are spreading beyond the tumor. Lymph nodes may also be taken from under the arm to look for evidence of tumor spread. If the cancer has progressed beyond the original lump, further surgery and chemotherapy may be necessary.

After a lumpectomy, the surgeon inserts a tube to drain the wound and the incisions are stitched up. The breast normally requires at least a month to heal before the patient begins a course of radiotherapy. Radiation may be administered in short daily sessions for about six weeks. As well as being time-consuming, the treatment may sometimes cause tiredness, nausea and skin irritation. Some women may wish to avoid having radiation treatment and decide to have a mastectomy, where the whole breast is removed, instead of a lumpectomy with radiation.

Following a lumpectomy with radiation, most women will not experience a recurrence of their tumor. The procedure is not used for women with large tumors, more than one tumor or tumors which have spread or attached to nearby structures. Lumpectomy with radiation is also unsuitable for pregnant women or those who have had similar radiation therapy before.

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