(Breast Surgery; Surgery for Breast Cancer; Surgery to Remove a Breast)
by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Click here to view an animated version of this procedure.
A mastectomy is surgery to remove breast tissue. There are 2 types:
Reasons for Procedure
A mastectomy is done to:
Problems are rare, but all surgeries have some risk. Your doctor will go over problems that may happen, such as:
Some factors that may raise the risk of problems are:
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Your doctor may do blood and urine tests.
You should also
You will have general anesthesia. You will be asleep during the procedure.
Description of the Procedure
For breast-conserving surgery, a cut is made at the site of the tumor. The tumor is taken out. A small bit of normal tissue around it is also taken out.
For breast-tissue removal surgery, the whole breast and fatty tissue are taken out. The doctor may also need to remove lymph nodes and some chest muscles. Tissue that is taken out is studied under a microscope. If you have skin-sparing surgery, the skin around the breast will be kept.
The doctor will place a tube to drain blood and fluids. The site will be closed with stitches.
How Long Will It Take?
Will It Hurt?
Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. You will be given medicine for pain after surgery.
Average Hospital Stay
At the Hospital
You will be in a room where your blood pressure, pulse, and breathing will be checked. Recovery may also mean:
If you had cancer and it has spread, chemotherapy and radiation therapy may be needed.
During your stay, staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection such as:
There are also steps you can take to lower your chances of infection such as:
When you get home:
Ask your doctor when you can start wearing a light-weight prosthetic breast. You can be fitted for a more permanent one when the site has healed. If you want a reconstruction, talk to your doctor.
Call Your Doctor
Call your doctor if you are not getting better or you have problems 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 November 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Donald W. Buck II, MD
Last Updated: 5/22/2018
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