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Next Steps after a Lumpectomy
Follow-up visit: The woman and her doctor schedule a follow-up visit, which is usually 10-14 days following surgery. This is intended to check the progress of the healing process. In addition, the woman and her doctor usually discuss the results of the pathology report and any additional treatments or therapies that may be necessary.
Radiation therapy: This is used as an attempt to kill any cancer cells that may have been missed during the lumpectomy. Radiation therapy is a standard follow-up treatment for any woman who has had a lumpectomy. The woman is typically scheduled to receive radiation therapy for about six weeks beginning as soon as possible after the lumpectomy, usually after the breast has been given some time to heal (about a month). Radiation therapy is given daily, with each session usually lasting a half hour or less, and does not cause any pain. Some women with small tumors may be candidates for local breast irradiation that is given twice a day for five days. The radiation therapy doctor can discuss the options with you.
Results of testing the tissue samples: After a lumpectomy, the woman and her doctor wait for test results involving the tissue samples taken during the surgery. Results of the test usually take a few days. If no cancer cells are found in the surrounding rim of tissue around the cancer, this means that the woman has clear margins around the tumor. If cancer cells are found in this tissue, this is called positive margins, and a follow-up surgery or other treatment must be performed to attempt further removal of the cancer.
Other therapies: Chemotherapy may be given to the woman, especially if tests reveal that the cancer has spread to her lymph nodes. The doctor may also prescribe tamoxifen (Nolvadex) or recommend other hormone therapy. Endocrine therapy may be prescribed either after, or insted of chemotherapy, depending upon the characteristics of the breast cancer.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/17/2015
Leigh A Neumayer, MD, MS, FACS
Marga Massey, MD
Galen Poole, MD, FACS
Mary L Windle, PharmD
Lee P Shulman, MD
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