Excision of a lump in the breast

A lump in the breast is usually felt by the patient herself or on examination by a doctor.

Causes

  • A family history of breast cancer (e.g. the patient’s mother, grandmother or sister).
  • After pregnancy breasts may become painful or swollen and in some cases an abcess may develop.
  • Medication that contains oestrogen.

Treatment

Certain doctors can do a thin needle aspiration in their consulting room. This involves the doctor drawing fluid from the lump and sending it to a pathologist for analysis. Once the results come back (this usually takes about a week) the doctor will be able to determine whether the lump is benign or malignant and whether it should be removed. If any abnormalities are mentioned in the pathologist’s report, the patient will be admitted to hospital for the removal of the lump.

Operation

  • The doctor will arrange for an operation and discuss the possibility of performing a frozen section with the patient (a frozen section is a procedure whereby the pathologist does a tissue analysis in the theatre to determine whether the lump is malignant or not).
  • The patient may not eat or drink anything for six hours prior to the operation.
  • A drainage tube may be inserted if the lump is large.
  • The patient is usually discharged on the same day but, if necessary, may need to stay in hospital overnight.
  • The doctor will discuss the pathologist’s report as well as any further procedures with the patient.

Warning Signs

If any of the following symptoms occur, contact your doctor or emergency unit:

  • Any drainage or abnormal odours from the wound.
  • Fever or high temperature (above 38°C) for two days.
  • Acute pain, redness and swelling.

Follow-up visit

  • After discharge from hospital an appointment must be made for a follow-up visit at the doctor’s consulting room.
  • The wound normally remains covered until the follow-up visit.
  • The wound dressing is usually waterproof, which enables the patient to bath.
  • Confirmation of this can be obtained from the ward sister before discharge.
  • If a small drainage tube and bag are still inserted at the time of discharge, it must be emptied approximately twice a day, eg at 06:00 and 18:00, at home. The ward sister will explain how to do this.
  • The doctor will give the tissue analysis to the patient and the sutures and drainage tube will be removed.
  • Treat the wound as explained to you and if uncertain, contact your doctor or emergency unit.