A lumpectomy is a surgical procedure for removal of a cancerous lump from a woman's breast. Axillary lymph node dissection is removal of the lymph nodes under the armpit. These procedures are treatment for breast cancer.
This procedure is a treatment for a cancerous lump in your breast. As an alternative you could:
You should ask your healthcare provider about these choices.
Plan for your care and recovery after the operation. Find someone to drive you home after the surgery and stay with you for a night or two. Allow for time to rest and try to find people to help you with your day-to-day duties.
Follow your healthcare provider's instructions about not smoking before and after the procedure. Smokers heal more slowly after surgery. They are also more likely to have breathing problems during surgery. For these reasons, if you are a smoker, you should quit at least 2 weeks before the procedure. It is best to quit 6 to 8 weeks before surgery.
If you need a minor pain reliever in the week before surgery, choose acetaminophen rather than aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen. This helps avoid extra bleeding during surgery. If you are taking daily aspirin for a medical condition, ask your provider if you need to stop taking it before your surgery. Do not take nonprescription medicines that contain aspirin in the week before surgery.
Follow any other instructions your provider gives you. Eat a light meal, such as soup or salad, the night before the procedure. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight or the morning before the procedure. Do not even drink coffee, tea, or water.
You will be given a general anesthetic. A general anesthetic relaxes your muscles, puts you to sleep, and prevents you from feeling pain.
The surgeon makes a small cut and removes the lump and surrounding breast tissue. If axillary node dissection is planned, the lymph nodes under your armpit are removed through another cut in the armpit.
If you and your surgeon have chosen sentinel lymph node biopsy instead of axillary node dissection, a special dye is injected around the cancer just before removal. Then a smaller incision is made in the armpit and the 1 to 3 nodes containing the dye are removed. You will be told a few days later whether cancer was found in the nodes. If cancer was found, you will need another procedure to remove the remaining lymph nodes (axillary lymph node dissection). Fortunately, most women can avoid full axillary node dissection with this method.
The cuts will be closed with stitches. If you have a full axillary node dissection, a drain will be left in the cut in your armpit for a few days.
You may go home that day or stay in the hospital overnight. Your healthcare provider may suggest you start treatment with radiation or chemotherapy, depending on the results of lab tests. It is helpful to have a family member or friend with you on the first visit after surgery, when you discuss test results.
You will be given a prescription for pain medicine. A nonprescription anti-inflammatory medicine, such as ibuprofen, may give most of the pain relief that you need. Ask your healthcare provider how to prevent and treat pain.
Ask your provider what other steps you should take and when you should come back for a checkup. If you have an axillary lymph node dissection, your surgeon will give detailed instructions on how to care for the drain under your arm and when to come back for drain removal. Ask your provider if there are activities you should avoid while you recover.
You may have the cancer removed without losing your breast.
You should ask your healthcare provider how these risks apply to you.
Call your provider right away if:
Call during office hours if: