Life After Mastectomy

Lumpectomy Recovery

Would you believe as many as 350,000 lumpectomies are performed in the United States each year? Furthermore about 30% require additional surgery to make sure all cancerous cells are removed. That’s a lot of lumpectomy recovery going on for women in the country.

For many of those women unbalanced breasts can be an outcome. Whilst this cosmetic issue won’t be a concern for every woman after lumpectomy, for some it will.  In this article we’re going to have a look how the unbalance comes to be.  We’re also going to look at what the options are for women who would like to correct this.

Lumpectomy Recovery

Lumpectomy Surgery

The term lumpectomy refers to surgery to remove suspected cancer cells from the breast.  The procedure also includes removing some normal breast tissue that surrounds the lump, known as margin or margins. This type of surgery is not the same as a mastectomy, where all of the breast tissue is removed. A lumpectomy is sometimes referred to as a partial mastectomy so there can sometimes be some confusion here. Another term used for a lumpectomy is breast sparing surgery or breast conserving surgery. Wide excision is another term used.  So, it can get complicated very quickly, which is why we wanted to provide clarification here.

Ultimately, the intention with this surgery is to remove a cancerous lump, a good margin of healthy tissue around it and nothing more. The idea is to remove the cancerous mass and leave the breast in as normal and natural a form as possible.

Results May Vary

As we know, ladies come in all shapes and sizes and so do their breasts. Furthermore, so do breast cancer lumps. As a result, the outcomes of lumpectomy surgery can vary from person to person. Surgery recovery will be quick and easy for some with little visible impact on the breast. But for others who have a larger lump – or lumps – removed, recovery can take longer.  And the breast may be visually impacted. For that reason, the purpose of this article is to introduce the kinds of undergarments are available for after lumpectomy surgery.

Options for lumpectomy bras abound.  But the best bra after lumpectomy and radiation combined may require a little more consideration.  In some cases, a lumpectomy prosthesis may need to be considered.

Surgical Procedure and Recovery

Firstly, surgery is undertaken with the intention that it removes the cancer. Then the suspected breast cancer is examined to confirm or rule out cancer.  The extent of the progress of growth is also assessed. Ideally at this point a diagonosis will be for early stage breast cancer and no worse.

However, the only way to tell if the cancer has spread further than the extracted lump is to take a sample of the lymph nodes under the armpit nearest the breast containing the lump. When cancer starts to spread it will often go to the lymph nodes first. So quite often when a lumpectomy is performed a sentinel lymph node biopsy will also be carried out at the same time.

Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy

A biopsy of these lymph nodes is a very good way for doctors to better detect cancer. Sentinel lymph nodes are an important part of the immune system.  This is because they contain the cells that keep an eye out for foreign invaders like bacteria viruses and cancer.

Why is this relevant?

Because if you have lymph nodes removed from your armpit you’ll have an excision and stitches and a pretty decent wound there. This can be quite tender, a bit swollen and takes some time to heal.

Care whilst healing

So, when considering a bra or other underwear after lumpectomy and sentinal lymph node biopsy, this tender area needs to be taken into account. You won’t want anything rubbing against it. In some cases the discomfort from the lymph node extraction might even be more uncomfortable than the lumpectomy surgical site itself.  That was the case for me!

Radiation Therapy After Lumpectomy

Of course, proposed treatment will depend on the individual’s health care provider.  But it’s fair to say that in general, the norm is to have radiation therapy after lumpectomy. The lumpectomy aims to remove all cancer cells.  Unfortunately, there is really no way of knowing if this has been entirely successful. So to “double down” on the treatment to ensure the most successful outcome possible, radiation therapy usually follows.

Why radiation after lumpectomy surgery?

A course of radiation treatment after lumpectomy surgery is used to destroy any remaining microscopic cancer cells. And why is this relevant? Radiation can be quite harsh on the skin leaving it rather tender and sometimes reddened.  Where possible, the medical staff will apply treatments to minimize the extent to which the skin becomes tender and sensitive. However, choosing a bra or other underwear to wear during radiation therapy after lumpectomy is another wise consideration.

Radiation after lumpectomy surgery effectively treats cancer while preserving more of how the breast looks and feels.  Do note, though, there are some effects on the breast.  It’s best to discuss all details with your medical team before it all starts.

There is an up-side.  Research has shown lumpectomy plus radiation offers good long-term survival rates.  In fact it is said the survival rates from lumpectomy plus radiation are similar to those who have a mastectomy.

Follow Up Care Considerations

When a lumpectomy has been performed, the breast itself will likely be tender – particularly around the surgery site. If a sentinel lymph node biopsy has been carried out, the underarm area will also be very tender. Your underarm area may sport what could be a sizable length wound, depending on how many lymph nodes were removed.

In addition, if radiation is part of your therapy, your skin is likely to become very tender and sensitive. Clearly, we’re not wanting rigid, scratchy, restrictive underwire bras at this stage. So, it will be important to give some consideration to suitable lumpectomy bras.

You may like to consult our buying guide here: 8 Best Lumpectomy Bras | Product Reviews and Buying Guide . We give some guidance as to the best bra after lumpectomy and radiation.

Breast Symmetry Surgery After Lumpectomy

We all hope for a minimally invasive lumpectomy.  And in reality this is what our surgeons will be trying to achieve for us. Yet depending on the nature of the cancer it may be that more breast tissue needs to be removed from the breast than we would ideally like. This is where lumpectomy bras and a lumpectomy prosthesis can be super helpful.

It is possible to get lumpectomy partial breast forms to balance up minor differences in breast shape and fullness after a lumpectomy. Good lumpectomy bras, which have specially designed pockets for inserting a prosthesis and holding it in place, can make life so much easier. If we feel we look our best and life is easy we’re going to be so much happier. However, sometimes a bit more help is needed.  Not for everyone, but for some of us we’d like to go to the next step. This is where breast symmetry surgery after lumpectomy is something that might be considered. That’s a discussion for another article but it’s worthwhile knowing that it exists.

Depending upon the degree to which a woman experiences uneven breasts after lumpectomy, there will likely be a solution to help. Uneven breasts can be an issue for some of us, even without going through a lumpectomy.  It’s a bit like feet.  Did you know it’s normal to have one foot larger than the other?  It’s just as normal to have one breast larger than the other.  When the unbalance becomes significant, that’s when we need a few more resources.  Luckily for us in this day and age, we have access to some very good ones.

Recovery and Back to Normal Life

If all goes to plan, your recovery from lumpectomy surgery and any required breast cancer treatment will be swift and full.  Then, you’ll be back to normal life in no time – cancer free. Should you face further challenges and treatment at this time know that our thoughts and love are with you for a successful outcome.