Learn more about breast cancer awareness

More than 200,000 women are diagnosed with early stage breast cancer each year. Most of the time, the 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 what the best treatment option for you depending on the stage and type of breast cancer. But what’s the difference between the two?

Never Miss a Beat!

Get Healthy Tips Sent to Your Phone!

Message and data rates may apply. Text the word STOP to opt out and HELP for help. Click here to view the privacy and terms.


Until the early 80’s 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, as well as the patient’s overall health, this may be a viable option. Usually, a lumpectomy is possible if the cancer is confined in 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. Lumpectomies can also usually be done as an outpatient procedure, meaning you can go home the same day.


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

Your doctor will determine what he/she thinks is best for you in regards to surgical treatment for breast cancer. The more you know about your breast cancer treatment options is helpful when talking with your doctor. Learn more about breast cancer and treatment options on the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center website or check out our Medical Monday episode on Breast Cancer.

About UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital

For more than a century, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital has provided high-quality medical care to women at all stages of life. UPMC Magee is long-renowned for its services to women and babies but also offers a wide range of care to men as well. Our patient-first approach ensures you and your loved ones get the care you need. Nearly 10,000 babies are born each year at Magee, and our NICU is one of the largest in the country. Our network of care – from imaging centers to hospital services – provides care throughout Pennsylvania and Maryland, giving you a chance to get the expert care you need close to home. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recognizes UPMC Magee as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health, and the Magee-Womens Research Institute is the largest research institute in the U.S. devoted exclusively to women’s health and reproductive biology.

About UPMC Hillman Cancer Center

When you are facing cancer, you need the best care possible. UPMC Hillman Cancer Center provides world-class cancer care, from diagnosis to treatment, to help you in your cancer battle. We are the only comprehensive cancer center in our region, as designated by the National Cancer Institute. We have more than 70 locations throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York, with more than 200 oncologists – making it easier for you to find world-class care close to home. Our internationally renowned research team is striving to find new advances in prevention, detection, and treatment. Most of all, we are here for you. Our patient-first approach aims to provide you and your loved ones the care and support you need. To find a provider near you, visit our website.