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?

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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

Built upon our flagship, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital in Pittsburgh, and its century-plus history of providing high-quality medical care for people at all stages of life, UPMC Magee-Womens is nationally renowned for its outstanding care for women and their families.

Our Magee-Womens network – from women’s imaging centers and specialty care to outpatient and hospital-based services – provides care throughout Pennsylvania, so the help you need is always close to home. More than 25,000 babies are born at our network hospitals each year, with 10,000 of those babies born at UPMC Magee in Pittsburgh, home to one of the largest NICUs in the country. The Department of Health and Human Services recognizes Magee in Pittsburgh as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health; U.S. News & World Report ranks Magee nationally in gynecology. The Magee-Womens Research Institute was the first and is the largest research institute in the U.S. devoted exclusively to women’s health and reproductive biology, with locations in Pittsburgh and Erie.


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.