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Lumpectomy Surgery In Detail

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Updated February 12, 2011

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During Lumpectomy Breast Surgery
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Lumpectomy Surgery

Image: ADAM

Lumpectomy Breast Surgery

After the skin is prepared for the procedure and anesthesia is given, the surgery begins with an incision over the site of the tissue to be removed. Once the skin is opened and the tissue that is to be removed identified, the surgeon will inspect the mass to determine what type of tissue it is made of.

In some cases, the mass may actually be a cyst, a small fluid-filled sac. If it is a cyst, the fluid will be aspirated until the cyst is emptied of fluid. The fluid will be saved for an analysis after the surgery.

In most cases, the lump of tissue is not a cyst and will be removed from the breast. In addition to the suspected cancerous tissue, the area around the mass will also be removed, an area called a margin. All of the tissue is saved for analysis later by a pathologist. The surgeon will also inspect the area to see if any additional structures of the body are affected by the lump, such as the muscle underlying the breast.

After the removal of the tissue, the surgeon will inspect the remaining breast tissue for any signs of cancer that may have spread outside of the lump that was removed. If there is no indication of further problematic tissue, the incision can be closed with sutures and the surgery is finished.

For some patients, the surgeon will also remove lymph nodes or take samples of lymph nodes for testing. This requires a separate incision under the arm. The surgeon may sample several lymph nodes or remove as many as 15 or 20 nodes in their entirety, depending on the patient’s needs. This is done to determine if cancer has spread from the initial mass in the breast, if it is cancerous.

The breast will be covered with a sterile bandage during the procedure, as will the underarm incision if lymph nodes are removed.

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