A lumpectomy, or a wide local excision, is also referred to as breast-conserving surgery. The surgeon removes the cancerous area and a surrounding margin of normal tissue. A second incision may be made in order to remove the lymph nodes. This treatment aims to maintain a normal breast appearance when the surgery is over.
After the lumpectomy, a five- to eight-week course of radiation therapy is often used to treat the remaining breast tissue. The majority of women who have small, early-stage breast cancers are excellent candidates for this treatment approach.
Elyse Caplan remembers it well, that first conversation with her oncologist.
She had just been diagnosed with stage IIB breast cancer, and they were
discussing the game plan for treatment. If her oncologist mentioned
"recurrence" -- the possibility that her cancer could return -- it was
lost on her, she says.
"You sit through an hour-long appointment and take notes, but when the
doctor says one thing that's very upsetting, you just freeze," she tells
WebMD. "You're thinking, 'I'm going to...
Women who are not usually eligible for a lumpectomy include those who have already had radiation therapy to the affected breast, have two or more areas of cancer in the same breast that are too far apart to be removed through one incision, have a large tumor, or have cancer that was not completely removed during the lumpectomy surgery. Also, women with an advanced stage or metastatic cancer are not eligible for a lumpectomy.