What is a Partial Mastectomy?

Partial mastectomy (sometimes called lumpectomy) is a breast-conserving operation in which the surgeon removes the tumour together with some of the healthy breast tissue surrounding it.

Women who have this surgery usually

  • Have a single breast cancer less than 3cm in diameter
  • Have enough breast tissue so that removing surrounding tissue would not leave a misshapen breast, and are medically able to undergo surgery and follow-up radiation therapy.
  • Partial mastectomy with radiation therapy is often considered the standard therapy for women who meet these criteria. Radiation treatment can be delivered at the same time as surgery or daily treatments depending on the cancer size and type.
  • Women who aren't candidates for partial mastectomy surgery plus radiation include those who:
  • Have had radiation to the same breast for an earlier breast cancer

Are pregnant and should avoid radiation, or have multiple breast tumours.

Surgical Procedure

A partial mastectomy surgery is done under general anaesthesia, and usually takes one to two hours. At the same time as the breast tissue is removed, lymph nodes are often removed, usually by sentinel node biopsy incorporating a separate small incision under the arm.

For a tumour that is not palpable (not obvious or big enough to be felt), a wire is sometimes placed adjacent to it to allow surgeons to locate and remove it safely. This procedure is called Hookwire localisation. (See link in page 5 of radiology section).

You will probably stay one or two nights in hospital.