How painful is a lumpectomy


Received the news on the 19 December that I did not want to hear, after what seemed like forever I have been told that I have breast cancer not something I wanted to hear. I have a 1.7 cm lump which is small apparently.

I am in total shock at the moment and in denial its easier that way, I have opted for a lumpectomy and radiotherapy, I could not bear to lose my breast I know that my sound vain but that’s how I feel.

Can anyone tell me how painful the operation is and how long it takes to recover from it.

Thanks for your help


Hi Debra

I had a lumpectomy 2/3/07. I really was OK. I was in hospital about 24hrs then went home with one drain in. The District nurses came to check dressings etc and removed the drain after 5 days. Yes it was sore and uncomfortable but not awful. It is worth getting a decent supportive non-wired bra and wear it night and day. They are available from M&S (they have a range specifically for breast surgery) of Tesco do cheapies at £5.00. You may be given excercises from a physio - if so start doing them straight away. Take any pain killers you have regulary.

Mainly I got sick of sleeping on my back - I’m a side sleeper. If you are having lymph nodes out that seems to be the main source of discomfort. It is also more important to get stretching and using that arm.

Good luck and try and not to be too scared, easy to say I know. Let us know a little about yourself, you will get lots of support here.


I found it extremely painful immediately after surgery. Everyone is different - I got extra painkillers when I complained of extreme pain. The next day after surgery it was a lot more bearable - and at all times I had a morphine drip thingy that i could press a button on to get extra painkiller



Thanks for the information will check out the bra’s, it is a little hard to get used to the fact that I have cancer it happens to other people not to me, I have always been carful with my health and have checked myself on a regular basis as I have lost two friends to cancer one had breast cancer the other had ovarian cancer both in their early 40’s, I am so used to being the one supporting people and not the one needed the support.

I am due to have the lumpectomy on the 10 January and some of my nodes removed they are also putting some blue dye in and some radioactive dye they do this apparently to help detect any cancer cells in the nodes, I will then have 5 weeks radiotherapy, they have said it will take two weeks before the grade of cancer is know after the lumpectomy they will then be able to tell me if the cancer has spread to my nodes if so then I will have to have them all removed which I understand can cause problems later on.

My breast nurse has been great but everything has happened so quick one minute is was a little lump the next you have cancer.

I know I am in Denial at the moment its the only way I can deal with it. I have had a few wobbles but am trying to hold it together not to sure how long it will last, I have two great sons aged 18 and 22 who live with me but they don’t understand how I feel, its worse when I am on my own with my thoughts, I am not looking forward to time of work as work is my sanctuary at the moment.

Bye for now and thanks


Hello Debra

I had a WLE and axillary clearance a year ago. I was in a bit of pain at first so they gave me some morphine but I think the pain was from the axillary clearance rather than the WLE. I didn’t need any more pain relief at all after the one dose.
Good luck
Anthi x

Dear Debra
Welcome you to the Forums where I am sure you will continue to receive lots of helpful advice and support from our users. Breast Cancer Care have published a Resources Pack which can be ordered on line, it is filled with information to help you better understand your diagnosis, test results and the various treatments available, you can order a copy via the following link:

You may also find our helpline useful to call, it is a free and confidential service and is run by specially trained nurses, who can help you through this difficult time, listen to your concerns and offer information, advice and support. They are on 0808 800 6000 and open Monday - Friday, 9am - 5pm, Saturday, 9am - 2pm

I do hope you find this information of some help.

Best wishes

Hi Debra
I had a WLE on 9th nov. It was painful but just make sure you take painkillers regularly and you will be okay. I had my op as day surgery and was sat in bed at 7 that evening eating pizza! BHS do some nice cotton bras and make sure you sleep in them for the first few days. One thing that I found to be the most useful thing was a V pillow, You can snuggle into it and as I am used to sleeping on my tummy it made awkward sleeping more bearable.Rosebys and most Bed suppliers sell them. I found wearing a coat a bit painful for a couple of weeks as I had a wound across my breast so I opted for a poncho, very comfy and stylish!!!
Dont worry about a few wobbles. you need to rant and rave occassionally,and a good cry can be amazingly therapeutic.
Good luck and best wishes

Hi Debra,
Sorry to hear about your news and as people have probably already said welcome to the site. I too was in denial and in total shock (I still am). I am 43 years old and ticked all the right boxes for healthy lifestyle, non-smoker, no family history of cancer, breast-fed my daughter, did routine breast checks etcetc. After a routine check with my GP I was sent to the Breast Clinic and was diagonsed with Bresat Cancer on 16.11.07, lump removed on the 29.11.07 and am seeing the Oncologist on 11.1.08. I’m still qiute sore and tender even though my op is just over a month ago so I am still taking things quite easy and just doing light housework and tasks. I feel drained all the time but thats probably down to depression so I am trying to keep myself busy at home, I found that loose fitting bras and tops are the best thing if you are a bit tender - I wear a lot of vest style tops under my sweaters for comfort. Also, a v-shaped pillow might help you. Everyone is differenct with regard healing processes so the best thing to do is try not worry too much about the next stage. When I was first diagnosed I read all sorts of sites and books and to be honest it frightened me a bit so I tried to stay calm and brave. I know you might think its easy for me to say, but it isn’t and I understand how you are feeling at the moment. I cried and cried after my diagnosis, I didn’t think I would ever stop crying but the tears have stopped and I am trying to keep positive. As the above post said I good rant or cry does help believe me.
Take Care,

i had a lumpectomy and axilliary clearance back in May 2004. Can’t say it wasn’t sore afterwards - it was - but the morphine helped. I too sleep on my side - and my operated side to boot - so I found sleeping on my back tough - but I’m now back to normal… In doing the axiliary clearance - they must have severed some nerves - because the feeling hasn’t returned in some areas under my arm.

All I would say is that I favoured a lumpectomy. And I’m glad I did.

Hope all goes well.


Debra - welcome - you will find enormous support here and please ask any questions however trivial you may think they are - we know they are NOT. To add to the comments above I would stress how important it is to do the exercises after the nodes removal. When I first had BC 17 years ago they did not give me any exercises and I had lots of pain in my shoulder for months afterwards. Good Luck and do let us know how you get on.

Hello Debra

Your op is now a week away, I had the same op a week ago now. I just had one node removed as well as the lump, which made things a lot easier. I went to theatre at 3pm and I went home at 8pm. The next day I was in pain, not from the operation site but down my back and shoulder blades, I think they have to put you into a handy position for the surgery and can pull all your muscles. But after 3 days I had no painkillers at all and have not had trouble sleeping though wake up early cos it stiffens up overnight. I am delighted with my recovery. Try to get going with your exercises as soon as you can. I am now waiting for my results. I have two teenage sons like you and they cant understand how I feel. The 18 year old has been very supportive though and offered to come to radiotherapy with me.

Good luck, you will feel better once you go for the actual op, as you will be doing something positive about the cancer, after all the waiting around.

Love Louise

Dear Debra

Reading your message was like reading about myself, I was diagnosed on Christmas Eve and will have a lumpectomy and nodes removed exactly the same method being used on you on the 18th January and then radiotherapy. I can’t quite believe this myself and totally relate to how you are feeling, everyone is telling me to be positive but it is hard as I keep questioning why me and why now.

But one hurdle at a time and positive thinking, I will be thinking about you on the 10th and hope everything goes well. Wish me luck for the 18th (results due 28th Jan).

Best wishes and all the best for 2008.

Hi Debra,

Like Beth1 reading your message was like I had wrote it (scary). I found my lump in the shower (during the break of X-Factor) this is were the roller coaster ride started Saturday 3rd October 2007, went to GP on Monday who sent me to breast clinic at hospital that Friday were I had a mammogram (they couldn’t see anything, so sent me the following Wednesday for a scan where they located a solid mass and took a biopsy, I went for the results on Monday 19th December 2007 where they said the words that I thought were for other people “i’m sorry to tell you, its cancer”. I was and still am in total shock can’t believe it, this happens to other people. I have been through all emotions “why me” like you i have ticked all the boxes for not getting breast cancer, no family history, non smoker, not overweight, breast feed 3 children.

My surgery was 27th November 2007, the surgeon gave me the option of WLE with blue dye to locate any lymph node involvement or a total mastectomy, my boobs are not important to me, I prefer to live, however, husband, surgeon and breast care nurse strongly advised me to go for a WLE (still not sure made I made the right choice, even though results were great - no lymph involvement and all margins clear so I don’t need chemo just radiotherapy and 5 years of Tamoxifan). Even after the results of the surgery I am paranoid its going to come back.

You asked about the surgery, I had quite alot of pain and had to stay in hospital 48 hours, but the staff were great and tried their best to get the pain under control before they discharged me but like the other messages have said i think its the lymph node removal that causes most pain and discomfort. My scar is very neat and has healed well for the WLE but the scar in my armpit is still sore and angry.

You will be fine with your surgery, keep thinking you are in charge, do not let the cancer take control. You are going to get shot of the little gremlin and fight it all the way (that the only way I can cope), you are not alone there is alot of ladies on this site that are so brave and positive that you can almost feel the hugs ((((( )))))) come from cyber space.

For Christmas i was given a book called ‘Chicken Soup for the Breast Cancer Survivors Soul’, what an inspirational book,I have already read it cover to cover.

Keep positive (sorry you will hear that alot).

I will be thinking about you and send you a hand to hold through cyber space

Gill xxx

Hi Debra,

I am going into hospital on the 8th Jan for a lumpectomy and node removal but am losing the nipple due to the tumor being right on the edge so am too very nervous. I went to see my BC nurse yesterday who was fantastic. I am expected to be in for two days and been told I will be on a self medicating morphine drip and will be positively encouraged to use it. I have had one of these drips before for a back operation and believe me they work. If they offer it to you take it.

My lump is 1cm, grade one ductal invasive, they know its hormonal so its definately tamoxofin but they are waiting for the histology of the tumour before they decide on the rest of my treatment. They keep mentioning chemotherapy as I am pre menopausal(39) definately radiotherapy and I am borderline Herceptin possible but if they decide on Herceptin I have to have chemo first. It all depends on the fish test (I have no idea what that means by the way!!!)

I hope all goes well for you. My hubby is taking me away this weekend to get me away from the phone. Off for a treck up to Windermere to get some air in our lungs and hopefully be out of signal range.

I really feel for you. I was diagnosed on xmas eve and really struggled with the lumpectomy/matectomy issue but have decided on lumpectomy for easier reconstruction. One thing this has taught me is its definately one day at a time and some things just cant be rushed.

Love luck and Hugs to you an all in here.

Shonagh xx


I would just like to say thanks to everyone for your help, I thought I was on my own but you have all made me realise that I’m not and I can truly feel all of your positive vibes, I have now bought the bra and v shaped pillow, not looking forward to sleeping on my back as I love sleeping on my belly and the side that I am having the lumpectomy on but guess I will have learn for a few weeks anyway.

I will be thinking about you Beth1 on the 18 January and for you Shonagh on the 8 January, hugs sent to you both

I have to admit to not doing the why me why now up to the last couple of days ( news year eve to be exact ) when I thought about what this year would bring for me. I have just got my life back on track after my divorce and was thinking maybe its time to start dating again its been so long was with the ex for over 20 years, been single for just over 2, I was sat there thinking well this is it for me a life on my own who is going to want me now blah blah blah, I know I am being stupid but guess it was one of my wobbles as I have started to call them.

Take care everyone I will post an update after the op on the 10.

Hugs to you all


Hi thanks for your stories, really helps to read that others are in the same situation.

Found a lump three weeks ago, my gp said it was non urgent as i am 35, so i was told i wouldn’t get an appointment for a while through the nhs. So went to a private clinic as i felt i couldn’t wait. They did a mammogram, ultrasound and bioposy the same day. I phoned up to find the results but found out they wanted me to come in. Should have been a warning sign, but because it was christmas, i thought it was just because they were so busy, that they hadn’t got my pathology results.

Was diagnosed this afternoon, so was absolutely shocked to find i have developed breast cancer. Everyone around me seems to be falling apart from the news, but i feel i have to do something, so have been researching breast cancer all afternoon on my computer. The doctor suggested i have chemo, then a lumpectomy, and then radiotherapy. But it seems a lot of people here have just had radiotherapy and lumptectomy. Is this most common treatment?

Good luck to you all


There isn’t a most common treatment, it depends on your individual circumstances, and is covered by NICE guidelines - Improving outcomes in breast cancer. They take account of test results from lymph nodes (indicating likelihood of spread beyond the breast), the grade of the cancer (how abnormal the cells look and how quickly they are multiplying) along with the size of the tumour and your age at diagnosis. You are more likely to receive chemotherapy if your breast cancer is found in any lymph nodes, if you have a larger tumour (over 2 cm) and if you are younger than average (below 50). they also test for oestrogen/progesterone receptors - these indicate the cancer grows in the presence of oestrogen or progesterone. If it is, hormone treatments such as tamoxifen and arimidex can be more effective than chemo. another routine test now is for HER2 which indicates a more aggressive cancer which may respond to herceptin.

I found it an awful shock being diagnosed too and nothing sunk in at all. I wasn’t interested in breast cancer pre diagnosis and I found out everything I could post diagnosis as I was shocked at how little I knew about it. I am now shocked at how little anyone knows about it and its causes but that is another matter


Good luck Debra and Shona. Please let us know how you get on on the 8th and the 10th. One important piece of advice, let people pamper you and definately no washing up for a week!!
Take care and best wishes

Hi all

I was diagnosed on 18.12.07 with grade 2 cancer. Will start chemo on 11.1.07 then surgery and then radiotherapy. I think it will hit home on the 11th that I have cancer because that is when treatment starts. Had a coil marker put in on 4.1.07. Feel a bit sore at the moment. Had a injection to put my ovaries to sleep yesterday as well. I am 37 and have been trying for a baby for the last year and a half. Was told that I cannot have IVF as my cancer is oestrogen positive. I keep saying sorry to my other half but he keeps telling me that it is ok as I am more important.

I keep having bad days but have got to keep positive. My mum had cancer just over 2 yrs ago and had a mastecomy straight away. She was given the option of surgery and then radiotherapy but she wanted to make sure everything was taken. She is doing really good now.

I wish all luck for the up and coming surgeries, treatmet etc,


Hi Chrissie

Can you let me know whether your grade 2 dx was with/without node involvement and do you know the size of yr ‘c’. I have started a thread this morning cos I am really worried with all the research I have done on cancer I have become a closed expert (not) grade 2 more than 2 cm with no node involvement should be offered chemo. I have been told my treatment is to be just rads and tamoxifan! Is this what I have heard of as ‘postcode lottery’ on what treatment is offered?

I would very much appreciate the info as I am goint to speak to bc nurse and onc tomorrow and the more info I have the better.

Take care and a big cyber space hug (((((((( x ))))))))

GillMc xx