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Dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis is overwhelming enough: Not only are women facing the weight of physically battling the disease, but they are also asked to make emotional, difficult decisions about their bodies.

Historically, patients diagnosed with breast cancer have been advised to undergo surgery to remove one or both breasts. But with recent advances in oncology and reconstructive surgery, Oncoplastic and Lumpectomies now have a new option: an oncoplastic lumpectomy, a surgery that allows women to keep their breasts.

Who Is a Candidate for Oncoplastic Breast Surgery?

Thanks to decades of research, medical professionals are able to create highly individualized treatment plans for breast cancer patients. Oncologists can now determine what’s happening on a microscopic level and identify specific receptors of the cancer. For some women, a skin sparing surgery, lumpectomy, or mastectomy may still be recommended—but others may benefit from this new surgery.

An oncoplastic lumpectomy is specifically recommended for women with larger breasts, tumors more than two centimeters in size, women who’ve had an unsuccessful lumpectomy and are now told they need a mastectomy, and women whose tumor is near their cleavage or along the inframammary fold where a bra sits—areas that are visible and may cause the breast to sink in and become obvious.

“Oncoplastic breast surgery gives women the opportunity to keep their breasts,” says Dr. Salewa Oseni, Massachusetts General Hospital breast surgeon at Southern New Hampshire Health. “Previously, if the tumor was too large, we’d recommend a mastectomy. Now, we can take a larger portion out during a lumpectomy and move the breast tissue around to fill the space and reshape the breast.”

The surgery also typically results in a better cosmetic outcome, depending on where the tumor lives.

Recovery Process of Oncoplastic Lumpectomies

When it comes to the recovery process for lumpectomies and an oncoplastic lumpectomy, there’s very little difference. For both, patients go home the same day and typically recover within seven to ten days. During that time, patients aren’t allowed to do any heavy lifting or strenuous activities.

“The only difference between the two recoveries is that an oncoplastic lumpectomy may require the patient to have a drain that stays in for a few days,” Oseni explains. “But, we teach patients how to use it. It’s very easy to manage.”

Combining Oncoplastic Breast Surgery and Radiation

Depending on an individual’s needs and her stage of cancer, a specialist may recommend chemotherapy or radiation therapy in addition to surgery. If a patient does require radiation, an oncoplastic lumpectomy does not limit or affect the patient’s treatment plan.

“We have a lot of new technology that allows us to remove the cancerous tumor and use a marking system to inform the radiation oncologist exactly where the tumor was,” Oseni says. “He can then go in and target that area. It’s all around a great option for patients hoping to keep their breasts.”

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Dr. Salewa Oseni is currently a surgical member of the multidisciplinary cancer team at Massachusetts General Hospital and Southern New Hampshire Health in Nashua, NH. For more information visit SNHHealth.org.

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