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Lumpectomy

Three-quarter view of female underarm area showing breast anatomy ghosted in. Incisions in underarm and on breast for lumpectomy.
You will have an incision near the tumor on the breast for the lumpectomy. You may also have a second incision under the arm, near the lymph nodes, for sentinel node biopsy or lymph node removal.
Lumpectomy is surgery to remove cancer. It's a breast-conserving surgery, which means most of your breast remains intact. There will be one incision (cut) on the breast for the lumpectomy procedure. You may also have a second incision under the arm for a sentinel lymph node biopsy, or for removal of the lymph nodes. If you're having a lumpectomy, you'll probably also need radiation therapy later, after you heal.

Before surgery

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

  • Sign any consent forms.

  • Tell your healthcare provider about any medicines, herbs, or supplements that you are taking.

  • Avoid eating or drinking for 8 to 12 hours before your surgery.

  • Arrange for a trusted adult to 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 free of pain during surgery.

During surgery

Your surgeon will make an incision near the tumor. The tumor and a surrounding margin of normal tissue will be removed. 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 has spread to them. When the surgery is finished, the incisions will be closed using stitches. A gauze dressing will cover the incisions. 

Right after surgery

You will wake up in the recovery room. You may have an IV (intravenous) line for fluids and medicines. Pain medicines will be given to you as needed. A nurse will check your temperature, pulse, and blood pressure. You'll likely go home the same day.

You will be given instructions on how to care for the incisions, what kind of pain medicines 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 next see the healthcare provider. 

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the following after surgery:

  • Fever

  • Chills

  • Increased pain, warmth, drainage, swelling, or redness at the incision(s)

  • Cough or shortness of breath

  • Pain in the chest or calf

  • Bleeding that soaks the dressing

  • Any other problems your healthcare providers told you to watch for and report

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

Online Medical Reviewer: Cunningham, Louise, RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Image reviewed by StayWell medical illustration team.
Online Medical Reviewer: Stump-Sutliff, Kim, RN, MSN, AOCNS
Last Review Date: 10/31/2015
© 2000-2016 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.