Mastectomy is the removal of the entire breast, whereas a lumpectomy involves removing only a section of the breast tissue where the lump has been found. Lumpectomy is just as effective as total mastectomy for many women, especially if the lump found in the breast is small or in the early stages.
Lumpectomy is usually accompanied by other treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation to eradicate any remaining cancer cells. If you have a lumpectomy, your medical team will usually monitor the remaining tissue surrounding the lump that was removed, to see if any cancer cells are found there.
Lumpectomy vs mastectomy: can you choose?
Sometimes you will be able to choose whether you'd prefer to have a lumpectomy or a total mastectomy, and sometimes your medical team will advise one or the other based on the size and position of the lump, the likelihood of needing further treatment, and how difficult it will be for you to heal from the surgery.
If you're thinking about whether you should opt for a lumpectomy or a mastectomy, the following factors might be important to you:
- How anxious will you feel about the cancer recurring in your remaining breast tissue?
- Do you have any genetic risk factors that make mastectomy a less risky choice (.e.g BRCA1 gene)?
- Is it important to you to keep your breast? How do you feel about the appearance of your breast?
- Will you be able to have breast reconstruction surgery to help you cope with the loss of your breast, or changes to its appearance?
If you're facing breast surgery, try discussing some of these questions with your doctor and surgical team. They should be able to help you weigh up the advantages of lumpectomy vs mastectomy and come to a decision that's right for you.