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Lumpectomy and Quadrantectomy

What To Expect After A Partial Breast Removal

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As a general matter, a lumpectomy is performed on an out patient basis in a hospital. You go home the same day. With a quadrantectomy, you will typically leave the next day.

A drain to remove blood and lymph fluid is usually inserted in your armpit during the procedure. The drain removes excess fluid from your system.

The drain is usually removed before you go home. Sometimes the drain stays in longer. In that case, it is generally removed during your follow-up visit with your doctor.

There is generally little pain in the breast area after surgery. You may feel numbness, pinching, or pulling in the underarm area. This is caused by the removal of the sentinel nodes. Some women who have had a partial breast removal may also experience numbness in the chest wall. This generally disappears in a few months.

Let your doctor know how well you do or do not tolerate pain so the doctor can prescribe appropriate medication. Keep in mind that as a general matter, doctors tend to under treat pain. Pain can slow healing. Let the doctor know if you want to be pain free. It is a myth to think that people who are prescribed pain medication will become addicted. (See the document in To Learn More to learn about pain and treatment for pain).

Before leaving the hospital, ask your surgeon what you can and cannot do - preferably in writing. For example, showering, taking a bath, exercise, lifting light or heavier objects. Most doctors will want you to start moving your arm soon after surgery to prevent stiffness. Women are also generally encouraged to return to normal activities as soon as possible after the surgery. 

If the shape of your breast is changed, and you want it to look the same as it does now in clothes, ask when you can start wearing a breast form (prosthesis). Tips about breast forms are in the document of the same name in "To Learn More."


  • You may experience Post-mastectomy Pain Syndrome (PMPS) after a Lumpectomy or quadrantectomy. PMPS is chronic nerve (neuropathic) pain. According to the American Cancer Society, the classic signs of PMPS are chest wall pain and tingling down the arm. Pain may also be felt in the shoulder, scar, arm, or armpit. Other common complaints include numbness, shooting or pricking pain, or unbearable itching. Let your doctor know if you have any of these symptoms. PMPS can be treated with medications that work for nerve pain. 
  • It is not unusual to receive radiation and/or chemotherapy after a lumpectomy. For more information about these treatments, see the documents in To Learn More.

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