A lumpectomy may also be referred to as an excisional biopsy as it may be done to confirm or rule out a diagnosis.

A lumpectomy is a surgery done to remove a benign or malignant lump or mass from the breast. While a lump in the breast may be a sign of cancer, various benign breast conditions also cause lumps to form in the breast tissue. A lumpectomy involves removing the abnormal tissue from the breast, leaving the rest of the breast tissue intact.


A lumpectomy may be done for the following reasons:

  • To diagnose or rule out the presence of cancer, if we are unable to obtain a diagnosis from a core needle biopsy
  • To remove noncancerous or precancerous breast abnormalities in the breast while maintaining the appearance of the breast
  • To remove tumours for those with early-stage breast cancer
There are various types of mastectomies including:

A lumpectomy is usually performed using general anaesthesia and surgery itself should take about roughly 30 minutes. Your surgeon will begin by locating the area of your breast that contains the abnormality. If a breast abnormality is biopsied, a marker may be placed to guide your surgeon to the precise area that needs to be removed.

Once located, Dr van Schalkwyk will make an incision in a cosmetically acceptable area of your breast. The benign or malignant area in question is then removed along with some of the surrounding healthy tissue.

If the lumpectomy is being performed for a confirmed cancer, the lymph nodes under your arm will have to be tested to see whether they have been affected by the cancer or not, so that your treatment can be planned accordingly. The lymph nodes are small bean-shaped glands that filter cancer cells that travel through the lymphatic fluid. During an axillary node dissection, your surgeon will remove a number of lymph nodes from your armpit on the side of the tumour-ridden breast. If a sentinel lymph node biopsy is done, Dr van Schalkwyk will only remove the first few nodes into which a tumor drains. If no cancer is present, no further lymph nodes need to be removed, but if cancer is present your oncology team will advise on the treatment plan best suited

A plastic surgeon often assists with reconstruction at the same time as the lumpectomy procedure, rearranging the breast tissue to make sure that the shape of the breast is maintained, no dents or deformities are left behind and that the two breasts are similar in shape and size.

Before closing your incisions with stitches, Dr van Schalkwyk may place drains into your wounds to collect any excess fluid during healing. The incisions are then dressed and your breast is wrapped tightly.
After the lumpectomy you will need to stay in hospital for observation for the next day or two before you can be taken home. You may experience some pain, numbness and a pinching sensation in your underarm area but you will receive prescriptions for pain medication. You will be encouraged to start exercising your arm and shoulder (on the surgical side) as soon as 24 hours after surgery to prevent stiffness. You will need someone to drive you home and to look after you after surgery. You will be given instructions regarding pain management, caring for the drains, showering and post-op appointments. You may feel a soft lump in your breast that gradually turns hard – this is due to the incision healing.