Breast Surgery: Lump Removal (Lumpectomy)

Breast lump removal – sometimes called a lumpectomy – is an operation to remove lumps or cysts from your breast that either won’t go away on their own, or that keep coming back.

Once the lump has been removed, your breast surgeon will look at the tissue under a microscope to see whether or not it’s cancerous. If you do have cancer, your surgeon will talk to you about your breast cancer treatment options.

Before your breast lump removal surgery

There are things that you can do before your operation to help you get better as quickly as possible. Your breast surgeon or breast care nurse will talk to you about things you can do beforehand to help you get better.

If you smoke, you might be asked to stop to speed up your recovery.

You should also bring a soft, comfortably fitting bra with you that you can wear after your operation. This will help to support your breast and reduce any pain.

What happens during breast lump removal surgery?

A breast radiologist is a doctor who specialises in breast X-rays and scans. If your breast surgeon can’t feel where the breast lump is, the breast radiologist will use ultrasound scans or mammograms to show the surgeon.

Excision biopsy

This type of breast lump removal surgery is usually done under general anaesthetic. That means you’ll be asleep and won’t feel any pain during the operation. Your breast surgeon will make a cut (incision) in your breast to remove the lump, and then carefully close the wound with dissolvable stitches. This operation usually takes around an hour and can often be performed as a day case.

Mammotome excision

Mammotome excision is only available in a few of our specialist centres. If your breast lump is most likely benign (non-cancerous) and smaller than 2cm (about an inch), your surgeon might be able to remove it with a special needle called a mammotome.

Recovering from breast lump surgery

You’ll probably be able to go home the same day as your operation, although you won’t be able to drive straight away so you should make travel arrangements. Some people might need to stay in hospital a little longer.

Before you go home, you will get information from your breast care nurse about:

  • how to care for your wound
  • painkillers
  • exercises to help you recover.
You should be able to go back to work after three days to a week, and able to do normal activities within ten days.

Side effects and complications

After your lumpectomy, it’s normal to feel a bit sore and bruised. You can control your pain with painkillers. If you are in pain, tell your breast care nurse so they can adjust your dose.

As with all operations, there’s a chance of side effects or complications. These include:

  • feeling sore, swollen, bruised or tight around your breast, arm and shoulder
  • a scar that is likely to fade with time
  • lumpiness under the wound that should settle within a month to six weeks
  •  a change of feeling in the nipple area, which should settle on its own.

If your wound becomes infected you will need to be treated with antibiotics.

If you’re worried about any of your symptoms, or you notice anything else unusual that isn’t on this list, you should talk to your breast surgeon or breast care nurse.

Making a decision about your treatment can be difficult, which is why it’s important to talk about the choices with your breast surgeon and breast care nurse.

Be sure you have all the information you need so you feel prepared to make the right decision for you. It’s also a good idea to talk about your choices with a partner, close friend or family.

Paying for your treatment

You have two options to pay for your treatment – your costs may be covered by your private medical insurance, or you can pay for yourself.

Check with your private medical insurer to see if your diagnostic costs are covered under your medical insurance policy.

If you are paying for your own treatment the cost of the procedure will be explained and confirmed in writing when you book the operation.

Ask the hospital for a quote beforehand, and ensure that this includes the consultants’ fees and the hospital charge for your procedure.

For further information or to book a consultation or treatment, please get in touch with our cancer enquiries team: Call us on 0800 157 7747

Content reviewed: October 2014

Want to look at other treatments? or find it on the A-Z list.