The word “lumpectomy” is a combination of English and Greek words– ‘lump’ meaning ‘tumor’; ’ek’ meaning ‘out’ ;and ‘tome’ meaning ‘cutting off’. Therefore literally ‘lumpectomy’ means removal of a lump. Surgically speaking ‘lumpectomy’ refers to the removal of small or large discreet tumors, both benign and cancerous, from an affected breast.
This surgery is actually a kind of breast conservation or preservation technique because, unlike mastectomy, in which the entire breast is removed, this surgery involves the removal of only a part of the breast along with a few other surrounding infected and non-infected tissues. Hence, it can also be called ‘partial mastectomy’. Lumpectomy is preferred over mastectomy, because in lumpectomy, the physical shape of the breast is more or less retained along with the removal of the cancerous tissues. More over, it has been proved through researches that lumpectomy in combination with radiation therapy has been as effective as mastectomy in the omission of breast cancer. There is yet another procedure called quadrantectomy, which involves the removal of almost a quarter of the infected breast. So, one should always be very clear with the concept of the surgery that she will be undergoing and the kind of scar that will be left after the surgery.
Let us now understand how the combined process of lumpectomy and radiation is carried out. This combination procedure is more popularly known as breast conservation. In most cases, shortly after lumpectomy a patient is given 5 to 6 weeks of radiation therapy. This is done in order to remove any cancer cells that may happen to reside in the remaining breast tissue. In cases where chemotherapy is also a part of the treatment, the radiations are administered after the chemotherapy.
Researches have shown that in women with small breast cancers (less than 4 cm), lumpectomy was as effective as a mastectomy. However, there is a possibility of recurrence of the disease, which can then be treated effectively with mastectomy, which assures complete recovery.
Lumpectomy—Not For All
Though, this is a very popularly and widely used treatment, yet its drawback is that it cannot be availed by all. Depending on the size of the tumor, its location and various other factors, the physician decides whether or not a patient is a candidate for lumpectomy. However, patients with the following problems or health conditions are definitely not recommended lumpectomy with radiation:
Earlier lumpectomy – the patient may have already had a lumpectomy treatment done previously which did not heal the cancer. Since lumpectomy is followed by radiation therapy always, therefore, radiation cannot be given twice in one area.
Multiple cancers – there may be more than one cancer in the same breast for which lumpectomy will not be sufficient as it may completely distort the shape of the breast.
Extensive cancer – if the cancer is a wide one, that is, it is spread over a large area then the more ideal surgery is a mastectomy.
Big tumors – if the patient’s breast is smaller than the size of the cancer tumor then it becomes extremely difficult for the surgeon to keep the shape of the breast intact. However, in some cases, chemotherapy is used to reduce the size of the tumor and then lumpectomy is carried out.
Connective tissue disease – if the patient has a connective tissue disease such as lupus or vasculitis, then it is not a very good idea to carry out lumpectomy as the radiations which follow it may cause sever side effects.
Pregnancy – the radiations used in the followup treatment is very harmful for the fetus if the patient is pregnant.