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Ask an Expert: Why Choose a Lumpectomy?

Read Time: 2 minutes

Kirstyn E. Brownson, MD
Kirstyn E. Brownson, MD

Lumpectomy is the gold standard for breast cancer surgery, says Kirstyn E. Brownson, MD, a surgical breast oncologist at Huntsman Cancer Institute. We asked Dr. Brownson to explain what a lumpectomy is and the benefits it offers.

What is a lumpectomy?

A lumpectomy is also called breast conservation surgery or a segmental mastectomy. In this procedure, the cancer and some surrounding tissue are removed—and the breast remains whole and intact.

Are my odds of survival different with a lumpectomy versus a mastectomy?

In the modern era of breast cancer treatment, we expect excellent survival outcomes for patients with early-stage breast cancer. For these individuals, survival is the same with a lumpectomy or a mastectomy. A lumpectomy, however, preserves the breast and this has a positive impact on a person’s life.

Because there are excellent survival rates with both types of surgery, it is important to emphasize the patient’s quality of life.

What are the quality-of-life benefits with a lumpectomy?

Some of the most important considerations for women after breast cancer surgery are intimacy and sexual function, psychological stress, and cosmetic concerns. 

Patients who undergo a lumpectomy maintain sensation in the breast and nipple. They also avoid the psychological stress of losing the breast. A surgical breast oncologist can place incisions where they will be harder to notice after they heal. This allows a woman to have her cancer removed without having a constant physical reminder of it afterward.

Furthermore, with an oncoplastic approach, we can design a surgical plan that will remove cancer while providing a breast reduction and lift. We are able to remove large tumors and multiple tumors. Then we work with the patient’s own tissue to prevent the breast from becoming deformed after cancer is removed. We can also address breast sagging to give the patient a more rejuvenated breast appearance.

What else should I know?

Compared to a mastectomy, a lumpectomy offers fewer complications, fewer additional surgeries, and a faster return to work and family life.

Kirstyn E. Brownson, MD, is a surgical breast oncologist at Huntsman Cancer Institute and assistant professor of surgery at the University of Utah School of Medicine. She completed her training fellowship in surgical breast oncology at the University of Southern California, the only Society of Surgical Oncology breast fellowship to offer formalized instruction in oncoplastic surgery.

Cancer touches all of us.