A partial mastectomy is a type of breast-conserving surgery used to treat cancer, according to WebMD. A surgeon performing a partial mastectomy removes the entire area of the breast that contains the cancer, the tissue surrounding the cancer and the lining below the cancer that covers the chest muscles. The surgeon may also remove some lymph nodes, but lymph-node removal requires an additional incision.
Partial mastectomies leave a small scar on the breast over the area where the surgeon removed the tumor and a dimple below the scar due to the lack of tissue in that area, states the American Cancer Society. If the surgeon must remove large amounts of tissue during the partial mastectomy, the patient may want to consider reconstructive surgery or implants for cosmetic purposes.
After the surgeon removes the cancerous tissue and a small amount of healthy tissue around the edges of the tumor, she checks the edges to look for any cancerous cells. If she finds any cancer, the patient must have further surgery and possibly a full mastectomy to treat it adequately.
Unlike a lumpectomy, a partial mastectomy always requires general anesthesia, notes WebMD. People who undergo a partial mastectomy often undergo radiation therapy after surgery. An oncologist may also suggest chemotherapy and hormone therapy to treat the cancer further.
Breast-conserving surgery coupled with radiation therapy offers the same survival rates as a mastectomy in patients with breast cancer in the early stages; however, people who choose breast-conserving surgery also have an increased chance that their cancer returns, reports WebMD. Depending on the sizes, amount and locations of any tumors, breast-conserving surgery may not be a viable option.