Surgical Procedures: Needle Localization Partial Mastectomy

Author: OncoLink Team
Last Reviewed: September 24, 2018

Also referred to as: Needle localization Lumpectomy, Breast sparing surgery, Breast Conserving Therapy, BCT

What is a Needle Localization Partial Mastectomy?

A needle localization partial mastectomy is the removal of a breast mass using radiology tests to guide the procedure. Only the area of suspicious tissue is removed, not the whole breast. Needle localization is used when a breast mass is found on a mammogram or ultrasound, but cannot felt by your surgeon. In this case, the surgeon needs a way to find the mass to remove it.

A wire is placed into the breast mass using a needle to pinpoint the area of abnormal cells. This is done by a radiologist, who first numbs the breast with a numbing medication. Using imaging guidance (mammogram, ultrasound or MRI), they will insert a needle into the breast. A thin, flexible wire is then threaded through the needle into the breast mass. Once the wire is in the correct place, the needle is removed and the wire left in place. 

In the operating room, under anesthesia, the mass is surgically removed along with a small area of normal breast tissue surrounding the mass. The wire is also removed. The borders (edges) of the tissue removed are referred to as surgical margins. If the mass is determined to be cancerous, the goal is for the margins to not contain any cancer. This helps reduce the risk of cancer growing back in that breast.

Will I stay overnight?                                                 

No. This is usually done as outpatient or "same day" surgery.

Could I need more surgery?

If the pathology report says that cancer is seen at or close to the surgical margin (edges of the tissue removed), more surgery may be needed to obtain "clear margins".

What is recovery like?

Your surgeon will talk to you about specific recovery issues. In general, after 2-3 days you should be able to do normal activities. You should avoid heavy lifting and exercise for about 2-3 weeks. After surgery, you could have any of the following issues, which will resolve over time:

  • Pain or sensitivity in surgery area.
  • Breast swelling.
  • Bruising.
  • Lump or firmness at the surgical site.

Can I prevent infections?

Getting an infection after this procedure is not common. You can help prevent an infection by:

  • Take a shower the night before surgery and wash your body with soap and water. 
  • Do not immerse the incision site in water (soaking in a tub or swimming). 
  • Always wash your hands before and after touching the incision or changing the dressing.

What will I need at home?

  • A supportive, cotton bra or sports bra to wear the days and weeks after surgery.
  • An ice pack, covered with a thin towel, to be applied intermittently to the surgical area in the first 24-48 hours. This can help minimize bleeding and swelling.
  • Gauze pads (4x4) to place inside your bra for comfort and protection (no need to use any tape). Gauze pads can be found at your supermarket or pharmacy.
  • Clean, supportive pillow(s) to put under your arm while sitting or to help with positioning at night.
  • You may have constipation after surgery. Over-the-counter medications, adding fiber to your diet, exercise (as simple as walking) and fluids may ease constipation. Ask your health-care team about over-the-counter medications that may work for you.

Care of the Incision

If you have a post-surgical bandage, remove per your surgeon's instructions (often within 48 hours). Once the bandage is removed, you may shower, but do not scrub the incision. To dry, carefully pat the incision with a clean towel. Avoid lotions, powders or deodorant on or near the incision during the first 1-2 weeks, until it is fully closed.

Most surgeons use dissolvable sutures inside your body which will go away on their own. On the outside, your surgeon may use surgical glue, paper tape called "steri-strips" or nothing at all. Both glue and steri-strips can get wet in the shower.

How can I care for myself?

You may need a family member or friend to help you with your daily tasks until you are feeling better. It may take some time before your team tells you that it is ok to go back to your normal activity.

Be sure to take your prescribed medications as directed to prevent pain, infection and/or constipation. Call your team with any new or worsening symptoms.

There are ways to manage constipation after your surgery. You can change your diet, drink more fluids, and take over-the-counter medications. Talk with your care team before taking any medications for constipation. 

Taking deep breaths and resting can help manage pain, keep your lungs healthy after anesthesia, and promote good drainage of lymphatic fluid. Try to do deep breathing and relaxation exercises a few times a day in the first week, or when you notice you are extra tense.

  • Example of a relaxation exercise: While sitting, close your eyes and take 5-10 slow deep breaths. Relax your muscles. Slowly roll your head and shoulders.

This article contains general information. Please be sure to talk to your care team about your specific plan and recovery.

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