Also known as partial mastectomy and breast-conserving surgery

You may be a candidate for a lumpectomy if you have been diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. Deciding to undergo a lumpectomy instead of a mastectomy is often a personal decision that should be made with your breast cancer surgeon’s guidance and support. At Duke cancer centers in Durham, Cary and Raleigh, our breast cancer surgeons have dedicated their careers to treating only people with breast cancer and other breast diseases. We can help you understand your options, answer your questions, and address your concerns.

Why choose a lumpectomy?

A lumpectomy, also known as breast-conserving surgery or partial mastectomy, removes a lump of breast tissue that may be breast cancer, as well as a small rim of surrounding normal tissue while saving as much of the healthy breast as possible. Breast tumors removed during lumpectomy aren’t always breast cancer; sometimes they are noncancerous (benign) or contain precancerous tissue.

A lumpectomy is not for everyone. There are pros and cons to every breast cancer surgery, and your breast cancer surgeon will discuss your options with you. However, most people with early stage breast cancer who elect to undergo a lumpectomy and radiation to treat their breast cancer will have the same excellent long-term survival as mastectomy.

Radioactive seed implantation for lumpectomy

Because only the tumor and some of the surrounding breast tissue are removed during a lumpectomy, it is important that your breast cancer surgeon pinpoint the exact location. If your breast tumor cannot be felt during an exam, the breast surgeon will use a special technique to guide the breast conserving surgery.

Duke is one of the few breast cancer centers in North Carolina where radiologists use stereotactic or ultrasound guidance to implant tiny radioactive seeds prior to your breast conserving surgery to mark the precise location of your breast cancer. During the lumpectomy, your breast cancer surgeon uses a radiation detection device to locate the seed, and removes it, along with the lump. In the past, the only option available for marking the tumor’s location was the placement of thin wires in the breast (and poked through the skin) a few hours before surgery. Radioactive seed implantation often replaces the need for those wires.

Minimizing scarring after lumpectomy

The appearance of your breast after a lumpectomy is often a concern for women, especially after their treatments have ended. Our breast cancer surgeons may use advanced surgical techniques to hide your scar under your breast, along the bra line, or around the edge of the areola. Your breast cancer surgeon may also use plastic surgery techniques to reshape your breast when a large lump is removed and the breast is distorted. This is often performed at the time of your lumpectomy to minimize the need for additional surgeries.

Choose your breast cancer surgeon

When deciding who should perform your lumpectomy, it is important to consider your surgeon’s experience, as well as the care provided by the breast cancer center at which you will be treated.

  • At Duke, our dedicated breast surgeons only see breast patients. Many have undergone advanced fellowship training to treat diseases of the breast, including breast cancer. Breast surgical oncologists who only see people with breast cancer often have the most experience treating your breast cancer.
  • In addition to years of experience, many of our breast cancer doctors are nationally recognized for their innovative approaches to breast cancer surgery and treatment. They draw upon the latest research findings and employ the latest surgical techniques to ensure you receive the best treatments available.
  • During your breast cancer surgery, your breast surgeon also may remove lymph nodes under your arm to determine if your breast cancer has spread. This can guide final treatment decisions such as chemotherapy, radiation, or anti-hormonal therapy, which may prevent breast cancer from recurring. 
  • Having a cancer center near your work or home will minimize the impact your breast cancer treatment has on your daily life. Our breast cancer centers in Durham, Raleigh, and Cary are close to your home and work. We do everything we can to schedule breast imaging appointments, and visits with your breast surgeon, medical oncologist and radiation oncologist on the same day.  

Your breast cancer care is our top priority. Our doctors work as a team, which means you will see many members of your breast cancer team during your appointment. That goes a long way toward reducing unnecessary stress and anxiety. It also ensures you have all the information you need to make decisions about your care. In addition, if you seek care at Duke and continue your radiation or chemotherapy closer to home, our doctors will coordinate your treatment plan with your doctors. We also provide second opinions and share information with doctors near you.

Main types of lumpectomy

During a lumpectomy, your breast surgeon removes the tumor and a rim of surrounding healthy breast tissue. Lumpectomy is often done in an outpatient setting and may be combined with breast reconstruction. It is sometimes referred to as breast-conserving surgery or partial mastectomy.

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