The actual surgery will only take between 15 and 40 minutes. Your surgeon will make an incision in the breast and remove the tumor, along with a rim of healthy tissue around it. Often, the surgeon will use an electric scalpel, also called an electocautery knife, to help minimize bleeding. Most surgeons make a curved incision along the natural curve of the breast. This minimizes the appearance of the scar and helps the healing process. Be sure to discuss the type of incision with your surgeon before the surgery.
After the tumor and some surrounding tissue have been removed, your surgeon may or may not insert a drain to help collect any excess fluid that may accumulate in the space where the tumor had been. These drains usually consist of a plastic tube and are connected to a suction bottle. The tube runs from under the incision to a bottle outside of your body. These bottles will need to be emptied on a regular basis, and the area where the tube enters the incision will need to be cleaned and redressed regularly.
After the drain is put in place (if necessary), the incision will be stitched closed and dressed with a bandage. You then will be moved to the recovery room.
At most facilities, lumpectomy and other breast-conserving treatments are done on an outpatient basis. Most patients having a lumpectomy, with or without a sentinel node biopsy procedure, can resume their normal activities approximately one week after surgery.