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Imaging-assisted wide local excision

5-minute read

What is an imaging-assisted wide local excision?

An imaging-assisted wide local excision involves removing the cancer with a rim of breast tissue around the cancer.

Before the operation, if your surgeon cannot feel the cancer, they will plan for a breast radiologist to carry out a marking procedure.

Your surgeon will tell you if your nipple needs to be removed. As well as removing your breast tissue, your surgeon may remove lymph nodes in your armpit to find out if there are any cancer cells in them.

What are the benefits of surgery?

Removing the cancer by surgery gives you the best chance of being free of early breast cancer. The breast tissue and lymph nodes that your surgeon removes will be examined under a microscope to help decide on any further treatment.

Are there any alternatives to an imaging-assisted wide local excision?

You may want to consider a mastectomy (removing all your breast).

If you have invasive breast cancer, where the cancer has grown through the ducts to the surrounding breast tissue, there are other treatments available such as hormone therapy, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and biological therapy.

What does the operation involve?

A breast radiologist will mark your breast before the operation.

  • Pen marking — This procedure is suitable if the cancer is close to your skin.
  • Wire marking — This involves inserting a guidewire (thin flexible wire) through a needle to mark where the cancer is.
  • Magnetic or radioactive seeds, or carbon nanoparticles — Your doctor will use a needle and mammogram machine or ultrasound scanner to place metal or carbon particles near the cancer.

The operation is usually performed under a general anaesthetic but various anaesthetic techniques are possible. The operation usually takes about an hour.

Your surgeon will make a cut on your breast. They will remove the cancer with a rim of breast tissue around the cancer.

Your surgeon will usually remove any lymph nodes from your armpit through the same cut or through another cut closer to your armpit.

All your breast tissue and lymph nodes removed will be examined under a microscope. If there are cancer cells near the edge of the tissue that was removed, your surgeon may recommend another wide local excision or a mastectomy.

An illustration showing cuts for a wide local excision and axillary surgery.
Cuts for a wide local excision and axillary surgery.

What complications can happen?

Some complications can be serious and can even cause death.

General complications of any operation

  • bleeding
  • infection of the surgical site (wound)
  • allergic reaction to the equipment, materials or medication
  • blood clot in your leg
  • blood clot in your lung
  • chest infection

Specific complications of this operation

  • developing a lump under your wound caused by fluid collecting
  • developing a lump under your wound caused by blood collecting
  • numbness or continued pain around your armpit or the inner part of your arm
  • stiff shoulder
  • arm weakness or swelling of your arm and hand
  • failure to remove the cancer
  • dissatisfaction with breast appearance over time

Consequences of this procedure

  • pain
  • unsightly scarring of your skin

How soon will I recover?

You are expected to go home the same day.

You should be able to return to normal activities after 2 to 3 weeks.

Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, ask the breast cancer team or your GP for advice.

The breast tissue and lymph nodes that your surgeon removed will have been examined under a microscope. Your surgeon will tell you the results and discuss with you any treatment or follow-up you need.

Summary

Surgery gives the best chance of you being free of early breast cancer. If your surgeon cannot feel the cancer, they can use radiology procedures to help find out where the cancer is. A wide local excision involves removing the cancer with a rim of breast tissue around the cancer. It usually involves removing some of the lymph nodes in your armpit.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

The operation and treatment information on this page is published under license by Healthdirect Australia from EIDO Healthcare Australia and is protected by copyright laws. Other than for your personal, non-commercial use, you may not copy, print out, download or otherwise reproduce any of the information. The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you. Medical Illustration Copyright © Medical-Artist.com.

For more on how this information was prepared, click here.

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Last reviewed: September 2022


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