The risks involved with lumpectomy are typical of any surgical procedure.
These include infection, bleeding, and damage to nearby tissues. General
anesthesia is also associated with some risk, although rare. Fewer than 1% of
women who are generally healthy experience a serious complication from general
The following are additional medical and cosmetic risks associated with
- Depending on how much of the breast was removed during the lumpectomy, the
appearance of the breast may change. The breast may have a visible scar or
dimpling and may become asymmetrical in relation to the other breast.
- Some women may experience some nerve damage, which may cause a loss of
sensation in the breast. Some women who receive a sentinel node biopsy, axillary
lymph node dissection may lose some sensation in the
underarm or range of motion in the shoulder. Other sensations may also be
- Two to ten percent of women who undergo axillary lymph node dissection may
develop lymphedema, which is the buildup of fluid in the area of the lymph
nodes. This condition can develop immediately or even years after the procedure.
If women have had an axillary lymph node dissection, they should avoid anything
tight around the arm (like a tourniquet used to draw blood, a blood pressure
cuff, or a tight band on a sleeve) on that side for the rest of their life.
- Phlebitis may develop, which means the arm vein becomes inflamed.
Risk factors associated with radiation therapy include the following:
- Skin reactions of the treated area, including redness or rash
Some women may also become depressed following lumpectomy. These women should
contact their doctor for professional referrals or support resources.
Leigh A Neumayer, MD, MS, FACS
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