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Lumpectomy vs Mastectomy: What's the Difference?

Lumpectomy vs Mastectomy: What's the Difference? | UPMC Ireland

One in nine women in Ireland will develop breast cancer in the course of their lifetime according to Breast Cancer Ireland. Most of the time, an oncologist will guide the patient on what is the best treatment option to obtain successful results. However, under certain circumstances in early-stage breast cancer, patients may have the opportunity to choose between the surgical options of a mastectomy or a lumpectomy.

Your doctor will help you determine the best treatment option for you depending on the stage and type of breast cancer. But what's the difference between the two procedures?


Until the early 80s mastectomies were the standard treatment for breast cancer. Now, with advanced treatment options, some patients are candidates for a lumpectomy. A lumpectomy is a breast-conserving surgery, where the surgical oncologist will only remove the cancerous “lump” within the breast. This procedure is usually followed by radiation therapy. Depending on the location and size of the cancer and the patient's overall health, this may be a viable option. Usually, a lumpectomy is possible if the cancer affects only one area of the breast.

If you have the choice, you may opt for a lumpectomy because it requires less extensive surgery than a mastectomy and it saves breast tissue. It also allows for the breast size to match the other as much as possible.


A mastectomy is the removal of the whole breast, including the nipple and areola. Your doctor may want you to have a mastectomy if the cancer has spread throughout the breast, or the lump is large and not in an isolated space.

You may have a choice between a lumpectomy or a mastectomy. The difference between the two operations would be extent of surgery and length of recovery, but the overall survival rate with lumpectomy plus radiation is the same as a mastectomy.

Your doctor will determine what he/she thinks is best for you with regards to surgical treatment for breast cancer.

Early detection is important. If you don't have symptoms or a family history of breast cancer, we recommend monthly breast self-examinations, annual breast examinations by your doctor, and an annual mammogram beginning at age 50.

About UPMC Hillman Cancer Centre

Read more about UPMC Hillman Cancer Centre services in Ireland.