What is a lumpectomy and a mastectomy.

If you’re new to the world of breast cancer it can be overwhelming, understanding the medical jargon and being a sensitive subject you may not want to question your loved one or friend. So I thought I would share with you a quick post to explain in layman’s terms what is a Lumpectomy and a Mastectomy. 

Surgery is one of the main treatments for breast cancer. The type of operation required depends on a number of factors, like the size of the cancer, the location/position of the cancer and also the patient’s own preference.

The surgeon and breast care nurse will talk to the patient about options and the patient may be asked to decide which operation they would prefer.  This was the case of my mum Hilary who decided to have a mastectomy without reconstruction when the cancer was found early. 


A lumpectomy is a surgery to remove cancer from the breast; a lumpectomy removes only the tumour and a small rim of normal tissue around it. A lumpectomy can also be referred to as breast-conserving surgery, partial mastectomy or wide excision.

The surgeon will usually recommend breast-conserving surgery. This keeps as much of the breast tissue and the shape of the breast as possible.  Some women have hormonal therapy or chemotherapy before their operation. The aim of this additional treatment is to shrink the breast cancer to avoid a mastectomy. 


A mastectomy is an operation to remove breast cancer from the breast by removing the whole breast. The surgeon removes the entire breast, including the nipple.

A mastectomy might be needed if;

  • The patient has a large lump (a tumour), particularly in a small breast 
  • A tumour in the middle of your breast
  • More than one area of cancer in your breast
  • If you have had radiotherapy to the breast before
  • It could be the  patients choice

The operation involves the surgeon removing the breast tissue (including the nipple and some of the skin) and the tissues that cover the chest muscles. In a few occasions, the surgeon has to carry out a radical mastectomy and also removes the muscles of the chest wall. The scar from a mastectomy extends across the skin of the chest and into the armpit.


*Image from Breast Cancer Care

The surgeon will discuss with the patient before the operation about the options for breast reconstruction. A breast reconstruction means the surgeon creates a new breast shape using tissue from another part of your body or an implant, or both.

It is the patients choice whether to have breast reconstruction or not but they should be offered one. Some women choose not to have reconstruction and that’s where companies like Pink Ribbon Lingerie become the new place to buy bras, swimwear and clothing.

The patient may be able to have breast reconstruction at the same time as the mastectomy, this is known as an immediate reconstruction. However, some might have a reconstruction some months or years later this is known as a delayed reconstruction. Everyone is different and some prefer to have it at the same time as the mastectomy while others prefer to delay it or not have one at all.

Following surgery, the patient may need radiotherapy after a mastectomy if the doctor thinks there is a risk of cancer coming back in the area of the scar. In this case, the surgeon might discuss delaying breast reconstruction until after treatment.

For more information visit Breast Cancer.orgMacmillan, Cancer Research UK, or Breast Cancer Care.


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Happy New Year Hilary & Camille xx


Pink Ribbon Lingerie was launched in 2010 by mother and daughter Hilary & Camille, selling post-mastectomy products in a wide range of colours and sizes from suppliers all around the world, giving you more choice with the aim to help women feel beautiful.


References - Breast Cancer.orgMacmillan, Cancer Research UK, Breast Cancer Care.