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Lumpectomy as Part of Experimental Treatment

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Lumpectomy can sometimes be a part of treatment that is directed only to the tumor area. This type of treatment is still considered "non-standard" or "experimental" for most people diagnosed with early breast cancer. The current standard of care is to treat whole breast with radiation after lumpectomy. However, for people who fit certain criteria, two treatment options may be available for partial-breast treatment:

  • Lumpectomy plus internal radiation: In this experimental treatment, lumpectomy is followed by “internal” radiation, which involves implanting small pieces of radioactive substances, called “seeds,” into the breast in a tiny tube or balloon device. This way, treatment is concentrated only to the area where the tumor was. After treatment, there is close medical follow-up and surveillance of the remainder of the breast tissue with regular mammography and physical examination.
  • Lumpectomy and close observation: This experimental treatment means having only lumpectomy and no radiation. The remainder of the breast tissue is then closely watched with regular mammography and physical examination.

Who is a candidate for treatment to partial-breast treatment?

Partial-breast treatments such as lumpectomy and internal radiation may be considered for people with a relatively small, non-invasive cancer that has all three of the following characteristics:

  • the cancer cell formation is low-grade or “non-comedo”
  • the tumor has been completely removed (resected)
  • the removed tissue had wide (about 1 centimeter), clear margins of resection

Partial-breast treatment may be offered in a clinical trial or on an individual basis by your physician. Occasionally, partial-breast treatment may be offered to people with a relatively small, low-grade, invasive cancer that has been completely removed (resected) with wide, clear margins of about 1 centimeter. Usually, this treatment is offered within the context of a clinical trial.

For more information about breast cancer grade and margins, please visit the Your Diagnosis section.

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