(Breast Surgery; Surgery for Breast Cancer; Surgery to Remove a Breast)
by Editorial Staff And Contributors
Click here to view an animated version of this procedure.
A mastectomy is a surgery done to remove breast tissue. Mastectomy procedures include:
Reasons for Procedure TOP
A mastectomy is done:
Possible Complications TOP
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
What to Expect TOP
Prior to Procedure
Your doctor may do the following:
Leading up to the surgery:
General anesthesia—you will be asleep during the procedure
Description of the Procedure TOP
The extent of the surgery will depend on the type of mastectomy you are having.
For breast-conserving surgeries, an incision is made where the tumor is located. The tumor is taken out along with a small bit of normal tissue that surrounds it.
For breast-tissue removal procedures, the entire breast, and fatty tissue are removed. The doctor may also need to remove lymph nodes and portions chest muscles that support the breast. Tissue that is removed during surgery is examined under a microscope for any abnormalities. If you have skin-sparing surgery, the skin around the breast will be retained.
After either surgery doctor will then insert a tube to drain blood and fluids. Lastly, the area will be closed with stitches.
How Long Will It Take? TOP
Will It Hurt? TOP
Anesthesia will prevent pain during the procedure. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.
Average Hospital Stay TOP
Post-procedure Care TOP
At the Hospital
Right after the procedure, you will be in a recovery room where your blood pressure, pulse, and breathing will be monitored. Recovery may also include:
If you had cancer and it has spread, chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy may be needed.
During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection such as:
There are also steps you can take to reduce your chances of infection such as:
Recovery will take about 6 weeks. Self-care measures and medications will help ease discomfort. Activity may be restricted during this time, but complete rest is not necessary. The care staff will help you with exercises to help maintain arm strength and prevent lymphedema. To prevent infection at the incision site, follow instructions on how to clean and care for the wound.
Ask your doctor when you can begin wearing a light-weight prosthetic breast. You can be fitted for a more permanent one when the incision area has healed. If you want breast reconstruction surgery, talk to your doctor.
Call Your Doctor TOP
Contact your doctor if your recovery is not progressing as expected or you develop complications such as:
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
Canadian Cancer Society
Women's Health Matters—Women's College Hospital
Axillary lymph nodes. Breast Cancer website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated September 17, 2012. Accessed December 18, 2017.
Breast cancer in women. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated October 20, 2017. Accessed December 18, 2017.
Surgery for breast cancer. American Cancer Society. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/treatment/surgery-for-breast-cancer.html. Updated August 18, 2016. Accessed December 18, 2017.
Surgery for early and locally advanced breast cancer. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated May 31, 2017. Accessed December 18, 2017.
Treatments & side effects. Breast Cancer website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated July 31, 2017. Accessed December 18, 2017.
Last reviewed December 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Donald W. Buck II, MD
Last Updated: 12/20/2014
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