Deciding Between Mastectomy vs. Lumpectomy

Following a breast cancer diagnosis, patients usually have an option between undergoing a lumpectomy or a mastectomy surgery to treat their cancer.

While the decision to pick one surgery over the other is often a personal decision, some patients want to retain as much of the normal breast as possible, while other patients prefer to remove the entire breast tissue. Which procedure to choose often comes down to whether the patient is more concerned about maintaining their existing breast of they are more concerned about the breast cancer coming back. This decision is personal, but the survival outcome of these procedures is the same.

Lumpectomy Overview
This breast cancer treatment removes the tumor from the breast, while retaining as much of the normal breast tissue as possible.

Advantages of a Lumpectomy
Cosmetically, a lumpectomy can preserve much of the same appearance and sensation of the patient’s breast. Because this procedure is less invasive, the recovery time for the patient is generally shorter. Also any major breast reconstructive surgery is generally not required.

Disadvantages of a Lumpectomy
Radiation is required following a lumpectomy to help prevent any cancer from coming back into the breast. Radiation therapy usually takes 5 to 7 weeks. Radiation therapy may also affect the timing of any breast reconstruction surgery and possibly affect options for later surgery to lift or balance the patient’s breasts.

When a Lumpectomy is Not an Option
There are some situations when a lumpectomy is not an option for the patient because the tumor is too large, or the tumor is located in an area that will not provide a good cosmetic result after breast surgery.

Mastectomy Overview
A mastectomy procedure is the complete removal of the breast, so that no breast tissue, or very minimal breast tissue, remains.

Mastectomy Advantages
For some women, a mastectomy provides a greater peace of mind. Removing the breast often helps these patients worry less about a cancer recurrence, or the cancer coming back. Another advantage is that radiation is generally not required, except is certain rare instances. In a mastectomy, an annual mammogram is not required, even if the patient has breast reconstruction, such as an implant.

For patients who have hereditary breast cancer, a mastectomy, and sometimes a double mastectomy, is the best way to help reduce the risk of any cancer returning.

Disadvantages of a Mastectomy vs Lumpectomy
Because the surgery for a mastectomy is more invasive, the recovery time for the patient takes longer. A patient is also more likely to have several follow up surgeries for breast reconstruction.

About the Surgeries
The surgery for both a mastectomy or lumpectomy is generally well treated. With a lumpectomy procedure, the patient is often sent home the same day. The surgery is done as an out-patient procedure. As there usually are no drains for the patient to deal, the recovery time is pretty quick. With a mastectomy procedure, the patient may need to stay in the hospital overnight, or perhaps longer. The recovery time is generally longer, as a drain may also be left in the treated area so that the incision can better heal.

Talk to Your Doctor
In deciding upon which procedure is ultimately the best option for you, please talk to your doctor to determine if you can have a lumpectomy, plus radiation therapy, or if you need a mastectomy. If both procedures are options, weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each surgery and choose the one that is right for you.

Learn More About Breast Cancer or Other Cancer Topics
Deciding between the breast cancer treatments of having a lumpectomy or a mastectomy can be a difficult decision, involving many variables. Listen to what other cancer patients have to say regarding breast cancer surgery options.

Please visit our Cancer Education Center to learn more about various cancer topics.