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 anesthesia.
The following are additional medical and cosmetic risks associated with lumpectomy:
- 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 affected.
- 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.
- Cellulitis may occur. This is inflammation of the skin of the arm.
Risk factors associated with radiation therapy include the following:
- Hair loss of the treated area
- Loss of appetite
- 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.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/24/2014
Leigh A Neumayer, MD, MS, FACS
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