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HealthInfo Canterbury


A lumpectomy involves removing a breast lump and some of the normal tissue around it. This is done so you can keep your breast, rather than having it removed. It's often called wide local excision (WLE) or breast conserving surgery. This can reduce the impact on your body shape.

If you have a cancerous (malignant) lump that needs to be removed, you may or may not be able to have a lumpectomy. This depends on several factors. If you're able to have a lumpectomy, this is usually followed by radiotherapy. Talk to your doctor about what's possible for you.

Risks and possible complications


The wound is usually straight and flat, with dissolvable stitches. Your scar will be more noticeable in the first few weeks after surgery but will fade to a finer line. Some people may form thickened or raised (hypertrophic or keloid) scars. If this happens, contact the breast care nurses on (03) 364-1804, who may be able to help with special dressings.

Wound infection

The risk of a wound infection is small (around 5%). But the risk is higher if you have diabetes or if you smoke. In most cases the infection can be treated with antibiotics alone.


Your treated side may appear distorted due to the volume of breast tissue removed. This may be more noticeable if you also have radiotherapy.

Possible further surgery

After a breast lump is removed, it's tested. If the testing shows that not enough tissue was removed, or that the disease is more widespread than first thought, you may need further surgery.

General surgical risks

All surgery and anaesthetics have some risks. See General surgical risks and Having an anaesthetic.

You'll be invited to attend a pre-admission clinic before your surgery. You can discuss any concerns then.

On the next page: Mastectomy

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by oncoplastic breast and general surgeon, Canterbury DHB. Page created December 2018.


See also:

Communication cards in multiple languages

Overview of surgery

Page reference: 435392

Review key: HIBRS-86141