The following article discusses different breast cancer surgical solutions: mastectomy and lumpectomy procedures.
Breast cancer treatment options are rarely easy to select. Many patients learn that they have more autonomy with their medical decisions than they either expected or are even comfortable with. We tend to think that our physicians will simply take the reigns with regard to our treatment.
Very often, though, we are faced with the difficult choice of undergoing either a lumpectomy procedure (also known as a partial mastectomy or breast-conserving surgery) or a mastectomy. In some cases the treatment route is clear—if there are numerous tumors that cannot effectively be addressed through a lumpectomy procedure, for example—but what about when it isn’t?
If you are struggling to determine which procedure will be right for you, here are reasons some women choose a lumpectomy vs. mastectomy and vice versa.
When Is a Lumpectomy Recommended?
If your surgeon is confident that the mass is contained and was caught early, a lumpectomy may be a viable and less stressful option than a full mastectomy. Although every patient will have different medical circumstances, a typical lumpectomy procedure will take less than one hour. If lymph nodes need to be removed, the patient may require an overnight hospital stay but can otherwise be discharged that day.
Lumpectomy Recovery Time
Recovery time post-lumpectomy isn’t especially lengthy for most patients; after a few days of rest, normal–though not strenuous–routines can resume. This could be an attractive option for women who are unable for professional or personal reasons to devote several weeks to recovery. However, radiation therapy may be required, and patients considering a lumpectomy procedure may have to undergo several weeks of daily treatment.
While the surgery may remove the mass, surrounding tissue, and possibly some skin, many patients find that the change in the appearance of the breast isn’t particularly severe, and reconstruction can always be performed in the future. We explain more about the lumpectomy procedure, including what the incision is like and what to ask your doctor before your procedure, in our related blog post.
What Are Indications for a Mastectomy?
A mastectomy is the full removal of one or both breasts. Women who have serious concerns about cancer recurrence often choose to undergo a single or double mastectomy over a lumpectomy procedure. They might also want to minimize post-operative follow-up treatment and the potential for additional surgeries. Some women may also want to avoid radiation therapy and its sometimes severe side effects.
Mastectomy Recovery Time
Mastectomies are inherently more intensive than lumpectomies, and they require significantly longer recovery time. In some cases, patients will still require radiation therapy. The American Cancer Society offers additional information about mastectomy recovery.
Discussing Your Options With a Breast Cancer Surgeon
Whatever you decide, it is important to have a comprehensive consultation with your physician about all of the benefits and drawbacks of the different treatment options. You may also want to talk to other breast cancer survivors to learn about their real-world experiences post-procedure.
Remember: Information is empowering. Give yourself every opportunity to make the best decision for your health, your identity, and your lifestyle.