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Breast-conserving surgery (BCS), also known as a lumpectomy or partial mastectomy, is a surgical procedure that removes the cancerous tumour and some surrounding healthy tissue from the breast while preserving the rest of the breast. It is a common treatment option for early-stage breast cancer, offering women the opportunity to maintain their breast tissue and minimise physical and emotional trauma.

Benefits of Breast-Conserving Surgery

Preserves the breast: BCS allows women to keep most of their breast tissue, which can be important for self-image and body satisfaction.
Similar survival rates to mastectomy: Studies have shown that women who have BCS followed by radiation therapy have similar long-term survival rates as women who have a mastectomy.
Shorter recovery time: BCS typically has a shorter recovery time than mastectomy.
Reduced emotional impact: Many women find that keeping their breast tissue helps them to feel more whole and less like they have lost a part of themselves.

Who is a Candidate for BCS?

BCS is an option for women with early-stage breast cancer, where the cancer is small relative to the overall breast volume. Other factors that may influence candidacy for BCS include:

The location of the tumour
The type of breast cancer
The patient’s overall health

Risks and Considerations

While BCS offers significant benefits, it is important to consider the potential risks associated with the procedure:

Risk of local recurrence: There is a small risk that the cancer may return in the same area of the breast where it was originally removed. This risk can be minimized with radiation therapy.
Need for radiation therapy: Most women who have BCS will need radiation therapy to help prevent the cancer from returning. Radiation therapy can have side effects, such as fatigue, skin irritation, and breast pain.
Cosmetic concerns: The appearance of the breast may change after BCS, and some women may experience scarring or asymmetry. Modern techniques of BSC incorporate oncoplastic surgery, where plastic surgical concepts are used to minimise the cosmetic defect resulting from the removal of breast cancer.

What to Expect During BCS

BCS is typically performed under general anaesthesia. The surgeon will make an incision in the breast and remove the tumour and a margin of healthy tissue. The incision is then closed with sutures or tape.

In some cases, a lymph node biopsy may also be performed to determine if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped glands that are part of the body’s immune system.

Recovery from BCS

Most women who have BCS will experience some discomfort and pain after surgery. Over-the-counter pain medication can effectively manage discomfort and pain following breast-conserving surgery. Swelling and bruising are also common side effects that are typically temporary.

Most women can return to their normal activities within a week or two. However, it may take several weeks for the breast to fully heal.


BCS is a safe and effective treatment option for carefully selected cases of early-stage breast cancer. It offers several advantages over mastectomy, including preservation of the breast, similar survival rates, and a shorter recovery time.

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