Finding a brea*st lump can be frightening, but it does not mean an automatic diagnosis of brea*st cancer.
There are several reasons why someone may need to have a lump removed from their brea*st. This surgery is known as a lumpectomy.
This article will look at the reasons for the surgery and what patients can expect before, during, and after the procedure
Who needs a brea*st lump removal?
It is recommended to visit a healthcare professional if a lump is present in the brea*st.
There are several reasons why a lumpectomy might be performed.
Doctors can use a lumpectomy to remove a suspicious lump from the brea*st for biopsy, or to remove a small tumor that is known to be brea*st cancer.
A woman who has brea*st cancer may need chemotherapy, radiation, or medication after the lumpectomy is performed. This is to treat and prevent the cancer from returning.
The outlook after surgery depends on several factors. These include the type of lump that is found, and if it is cancer, how advanced the cancer is.
Causes of brea*st lumps
There are different causes for lumps in the brea*st. Not all of them are cancer.
Cysts: Harmless growths in the brea*st tissue. They tend to occur with hormonal changes, such as with the start of a menstrual period. Cysts are usually filled with fluid that can be drained with a needle. It is possible for cysts to reoccur after the fluid has been drained.
Fibrosis: A thickening of the tissue within the brea*st. It is usually harmless.
Benign tumors: Solid growths that are not cancerous or dangerous. They can be uncomfortable, and they can sometimes cause leakage from the nipples, depending on their location. The only way to determine if a tumor is cancerous or benign is by looking at the cells that make up the tumor under a microscope.
It is important to see a doctor to find out which type of lump is present in the brea*st. Early treatment can then be started if needed.
A doctor will likely order image testing to see the lump and surrounding tissue. Examples include mammogram, ultrasound, or MRI. Someone at low risk for brea*st cancer may be asked to monitor the lump and to return periodically to check on it.
Sometimes the doctor will want to do a biopsy. This involves removing a small amount of the lump, in order to diagnose the cause. The only way to definitively diagnose brea*st cancer or other conditions is to perform a biopsy.
There are several different types of biopsies:
Fine needle aspiration biopsy: A small needle is inserted into the lump and a few cells are removed to be studied.
Core needle biopsy: A slightly larger needle is used to remove three to six small cylinders of tissue from the abnormal brea*st tissue. The samples are then looked at under a microscope.
Surgical biopsy: A surgeon makes a cut into the brea*st to remove either a small amount of the abnormal tissue or the entire lump. Removing the entire lump is known as an excisional biopsy.
An excisional biopsy is also known as a brea*st lump removal or a lumpectomy. This procedure removes only the abnormal tissue and a small amount of surrounding tissue from the brea*st. It leaves the rest of the brea*st intact.
Types of surgical procedures
Several types of surgical procedure can be performed to remove a brea*st lump, or in some cases, the entire brea*st.
It is important for patients to discuss with the surgeon which procedure is most appropriate. This will depend on the size and location of the tumor, brea*st size, whether the cancer has spread, and the wishes of the patient.
A lumpectomy is known as a brea*st-conserving procedure, because most of the brea*st tissue stays in place. If the doctor suspects cancer, the surgeon will remove lymph nodes that are close to the brea*st tumor to look for evidence that the cancer has spread.
When performed to treat a cancerous tumor, it is very important to ensure that all of the cancer cells have been completely removed. The surgeon will take a small amount of tissue that surrounds the tumor, known as the border, for examination under a microscope.
If there are no cancer cells in the border, it is said to have a healthy or clear margin. If there are cancer cells in the border, further surgery may be necessary to remove the rest of the cancer.
Another type of brea*st-saving surgery, though less common, is a quadranectomy. Around a fourth of the brea*st, including the tumor, is removed. Reconstructive surgery to replace the removed tissue may be an option after having a quadranectomy.
Complete removal of the brea*st, nipple, and all of the brea*st tissue is known as a mastectomy. A radical mastectomy also removes the muscles that make up the chest wall. Reconstructive surgery to create a new brea*st can be performed either at the same time or at a later date.
Preparing for surgery
A lumpectomy is usually performed as an outpatient procedure, either in the hospital or an outpatient surgical center. The procedure is carried out under general anesthesia and the patient goes home after a brief recovery period.
A mastectomy is usually performed in the hospital, because the procedure and recovery are more complex.
If the lump is difficult to locate within the brea*st tissue, a radiologist may need to place a marker in the lump and a thin guidewire leading from the outside of the brea*st down into the lump. This makes it easier for the surgeon to find the lump during surgery.
Before surgery, certain medications may need to be stopped to reduce the risk of bleeding. These include aspirin or other blood-thinning medications. It is also important not to eat or drink at least 8 to 12 hours before surgery, and to make arrangements for a ride home.
Patients having these procedures will meet with the surgeon a few days to a week beforehand to discuss any additional instructions that may be necessary.
Risks during surgery
As with all surgical procedures, brea*st lump removal surgeries carry some risks.
These risks may include:
Change in appearance of the brea*st.
What to expect after surgery
Recovery will depend on the type of brea*st lump removal procedure that was performed. The surgeon will give detailed instructions for how and when to follow up for further care.
The tissue removed during the surgery will be sent to a pathologist who will examine it under a microscope to confirm the diagnosis. The doctor will share this information after receiving the results. They will discuss what they mean, and what will happen next.
While it can be frightening to find a lump in the brea*st, it is important to realize that there can be many different causes other than cancer. Seeing a doctor promptly for testing is crucial to making an accurate diagnosis and starting early treatment if needed.
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