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Breast Conservation Therapy


Breast conservation therapy (BCT) is also called a lumpectomy. Only the part of the breast with cancer and some area around it are removed. Radiation therapy may be given at a later date to kill cancer cells that were not removed with surgery.


The week before your surgery:

  • Arrange a ride home. Ask a family member or friend to drive you home after your surgery or procedure. Do not drive yourself home.
  • Ask your caregiver if you need to stop using aspirin or any other prescribed or over-the-counter medicine before your procedure or surgery.
  • Bring your medicine bottles or a list of your medicines when you see your caregiver. Tell your caregiver if you are allergic to any medicine. Tell your caregiver if you use any herbs, food supplements, or over-the-counter medicine.
  • Tell your caregiver if you know or think you might be pregnant.
  • You may need a blood transfusion if you lose a large amount of blood during surgery. Some people are worried about getting AIDS, hepatitis, or the West Nile virus from a blood transfusion. The risk of this happening is very low. Blood banks test all donated blood for AIDS, hepatitis, and the West Nile virus. You may be able to donate your own blood before surgery. This is called autologous blood donation. This must be done no later than three days before surgery. You may also ask a family member or friend with the same blood type to donate blood for you. This is called directed blood donation.
  • You may need to have blood and urine tests, a mammogram, chest x-ray, and other tests. A guide, such as a guidewire or marker clip, may be placed if the lump cannot be felt by hand. Areas that look different during mammography may also be marked with a needle-hookwire or blue dye injection. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about these and other tests that you may need. Write down the date, time, and location of each test.
  • Write down the correct date, time, and location of your surgery.

The night before your surgery:

  • You may be given medicine to help you sleep.
  • Ask caregivers about directions for eating and drinking.

The day of your surgery:

  • Ask your caregiver before taking any medicine on the day of your procedure. These medicines include insulin, diabetic pills, high blood pressure pills, or heart pills. Bring a list of all the medicines you take, or your pill bottles, with you to the hospital.
  • Do not wear contact lenses on the day of your surgery. You may wear glasses.
  • Healthcare providers will insert an IV into your vein. A vein in the arm is usually chosen. You may be given liquids and medicine through the IV.
  • An anesthesiologist may talk to you before your surgery. This healthcare provider may give you medicine to make you sleepy before your surgery. Tell your healthcare provider if you or any member of your family has had a problem with anesthesia.
  • Informed consent is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.


What will happen:

  • You may be given medicine to help you relax or make you drowsy. You will be taken to the operating room. Healthcare providers may give you general or local anesthesia to make you comfortable during surgery.
  • Your surgeon will make an incision in your breast area. The lump and some breast tissue will be removed. The surgeon may remove a small amount of breast tissue around the lump or as much as ¼ of your breast. Underarm lymph nodes may be taken out to check if the cancer has spread. Thin rubber tubes will be put into your skin to drain blood from your incision. The incisions will be closed with stitches and covered with bandages.

After surgery:

You are taken to a room where your heart and breathing will be monitored. Do not get out of bed until your caregiver says it is okay. A bandage may cover wounds to help prevent infection. You may be able to go home after some time passes. An adult will need to drive you home and should stay with you for 24 hours. If you cannot go home, you will be taken to a hospital room.


  • You cannot make it to your surgery on time.
  • You have a fever.
  • You have a skin infection or an infected wound near the area where surgery will be done.
  • You have questions or concerns about your surgery.

Seek Care Immediately if

  • You feel a new lump in your chest or other breast, or underarm, or see or feel other changes.
  • You have discharge coming from your breast.
  • You have redness, swelling, or severe pain in the breast.


Surgery may cause you to bleed more than usual or get an infection. After surgery, you may have trouble breathing, or get a blood clot in your arm or leg. The clot may travel to your heart or brain and cause life-threatening problems, such as a heart attack or stroke. You may have scars, shoulder stiffness, or swelling around the area where breast tissue was removed. If a large part of your breast was removed, you may have concerns about having unequal breasts. Radiation may damage your heart, lungs, brain, and skin. Radiation may cause problems or lead to other cancers. The cancer may not have been totally removed and may come back. You may need to have more surgeries later on.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.