Lumpectomy: Before Your Surgery

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What is a lumpectomy?

Before and after a lumpectomy

A lumpectomy is surgery to remove cancer from the breast. Your doctor will make a small cut (incision) and take out the cancer. The whole breast will not be removed. The doctor will try to also take a small amount of normal tissue around the cancer. This is known as "getting clear margins." Some women will need another surgery to be sure the margins are clear. The doctor may also check the nearby lymph nodes during the surgery.

After a lumpectomy, you will probably go home the same day. Most women can go back to work or their normal routine in 1 to 3 weeks. This depends on how you feel. It also depends on the type of work you do and whether you need more treatment. This may include radiation or chemotherapy. Most women who have a lumpectomy for cancer also get radiation treatment.

The surgery will leave scars. Sometimes it leaves a dent in the breast too. Most women will look normal in a bra. But your breasts may not match in size or shape after surgery. This depends on the size of your breasts. It also depends on how much tissue was removed.

When you find out that you have cancer, you may feel many emotions and may need some help coping. Seek out family, friends, and counsellors for support. You also can do things at home to make yourself feel better while you go through treatment. Call the Canadian Cancer Society (1-888-939-3333) or visit its website at www.cancer.ca for more information.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

What happens before surgery?

Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.

Preparing for surgery

  • Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell your doctors ALL the medicines and natural health products you take. Some of these can increase the risk of bleeding or interact with anesthesia.
  • If you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if you should stop taking these medicines before your surgery. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Your doctor will tell you which medicines to take or stop before your surgery. You may need to stop taking certain medicines a week or more before surgery. So talk to your doctor as soon as you can.
  • If you have an advance care plan, let your doctor know. Bring a copy to the hospital. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets your doctor and loved ones know your health care wishes. Doctors advise that everyone prepare these papers before any type of surgery or procedure.

What happens on the day of surgery?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your surgery may be cancelled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of surgery, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your surgery. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Do not shave the surgical site yourself.
  • Take off all jewellery and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.
  • Bring a comfortable, supportive bra with you. You will need to wear this all the time, even during the night, for the first week after surgery.

At the hospital or surgery centre

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • The area for surgery is often marked to make sure there are no errors. If your doctor can't feel the lump, a needle can be put in the suspicious area. This may be done during a mammogram just before surgery. The needle will guide your doctor.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. The anesthesia may make you sleep. Or it may just numb the area being worked on.
  • The surgery will take about 1 hour or longer, depending on the size of the lump.

Going home

  • Be sure you have someone to drive you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine make it unsafe for you to drive.
  • You will be given more specific instructions about recovering from your surgery. They will cover things like diet, wound care, follow-up care, driving, and getting back to your normal routine.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your surgery.
  • You become ill before the surgery (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the surgery.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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