What is a wide local excision?
A wide local excision involves removing the cancer with a rim of breast tissue around the cancer. 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 a 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?
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.
What complications can happen?
Some complications can be serious and can even cause death.
General complications of any operation
- infection of the surgical site (wound)
- allergic reaction to the equipment, materials or medication
- venous thromboembolism
- 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
- dissatisfaction with breast appearance over time
- stiff shoulder
- numbness or continued pain around your armpit or the inner part of your arm
- arm weakness or swelling of your arm and hand
Consequences of this procedure
- scarring of your skin, which may be unsightly
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-care 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. They will also check your wound and be able to tell you when you can return to work.
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, which helps your surgeon to decide on any further treatment.IMPORTANT INFORMATION
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Last reviewed: September 2023