Womens Health

Is Lumpectomy Surgery Right For You?

Studies have shown that breast lumpectomy surgery followed by radiation treatment of breast cancer reduces the risk of recurrence in cases of small invasive breast cancers by 66%. In recent years, breast cancer studies have shown that lumpectomy surgery followed by radiation treatment is likely to be as effective as mastectomy surgery (breast removal surgery) in certain cases.

However, breast conserving surgery (lumpectomy) and radiation is not for everyone. Radiation alternatives and other breast cancer treatments that may replace or supplement breast cancer radiation treatment are currently being assessed.


Radiation or Not After Lumpectomy

Breast cancer research has recently shown that lumpectomy surgery is likely to be as effective as a mastectomy in women with only one site of breast cancer in the breast, and in cases when a breast lump or tumor smaller than four centimeters is removed with clear margins (surrounding tissue is non-cancerous).

This had been confirmed in cases of young or pre-menopausal women under the age of 50 as post-menopausal women with breast cancer. Studies have also shown that even women with small breast cancers (one-centimeter or less) with no cancer cells found in the lymph nodes benefited from radiation treatment after lumpectomy surgery.


Radiation Treatment Alternatives

A study from the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project in Pittsburgh, PA looked at the effects of radiation and radiation alternatives on women who received breast cancer surgery in the form of a lumpectomy. The researchers considered the effects of a hormonal breast cancer treatment known as tamoxifen, as well as a combination of tamoxifen and radiation treatment, and radiation alone.

The researchers found that breast cancer radiation treatment was more effective than tamoxifen alone in lowering the risk of breast cancer recurrence or breast lumps in the same breast in women with small cancers and no lymph node involvement. Radiation treatment was effective for both estrogen-receptor-positive and estrogen-receptor-negative types of breast tumors.

The combination of tamoxifen and radiation treatment after lumpectomy had increased benefits for women with estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer type. Hormonal therapy for breast cancer after surgical treatment has been shown to lower the risk of breast cancer coming back, to improve survival after surgery, and to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer in the other breast.

It is important to discuss all breast cancer treatment options thoroughly with your doctor before making the decision that is right for you.


Factors to Consider: Is Lumpectomy Right For You?

Consulting a doctor is an important step in making a decision regarding your breast cancer treatment based on a thorough breast exam along with your medical history. A doctor may recommend lumpectomy surgery followed by radiation treatment if the breast cancer is:


  • in the early breast cancer stages
  • smaller than four centimeters
  • is located on only one site
  • the surrounding tissue is clear of cancer cells

In the following cases, breast lumpectomy and radiation will most likely not be recommended:


  • Radiation treatment had already been performed on the same breast
  • There is extensive cancer in the breast or multiple sites of breast cancer
  • The tumor is large relative to the size of the breast
  • Multiple attempts and re-excision surgeries have not been successful
  • You have a connective tissue disease such as lupus or vasculitis
  • You are pregnant


Mastectomy vs Lumpectomy

With lumpectomy surgery, patients may be at a somewhat higher risk of breast cancer recurrence than women who undergo a breast mastectomy. Some women feel that they will have greater peace of mind after a mastectomy; however, in some cases radiation therapy may also be required following a mastectomy.

You may want to consider how important breast conservation is to you, and whether you are interested in breast reconstructive surgery. In consultation with your doctor, it is important to make the decision with which you feel most comfortable.


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