to view an animated version of this procedure.
A mastectomy is surgery to remove breast tissue. There are 2 types:
—The tumor and some normal tissue around it are taken out.
Partial mastectomy—Part of the breast that has cancer and some normal tissue around it are taken out. The lymph nodes or the lining of the chest muscle may also be taken out.
Breast-tissue removal mastectomy types:
Simple—The whole breast is taken out. This includes the nipple and areola.
Skin-sparing—The skin that covers the breast is left except for the nipple and areola. This is like a simple mastectomy. It is done when reconstruction is planned. It has limits and may not be a choice for all women.
Modified radical—The whole breast, some lymph nodes in the armpit, and any affected chest muscles are taken out.
Radical—The whole breast, lymph nodes, and muscles of the chest wall are taken out (rare).
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:
Antibiotics to prevent infection
Medication to prevent blood clots
Getting out of bed and moving around within 24 hours of your surgery
If you had cancer and it has spread,
may be needed.
During your stay, staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection such as:
Washing their hands
Wearing gloves or masks
Keeping your cuts covered
There are also steps you can take to lower your chances of infection such as:
Washing your hands often and reminding visitors and staff to do the same
Reminding staff to wear gloves or masks
Not allowing others to touch your cuts
When you get home:
Limit activities until your doctor says it is okay to resume them.
Do exercises to promote arm strength. This will prevent fluid build up in your lymph nodes.
Follow your doctor’s instructions.
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:
New signs of infection, such as fever and chills
Increased redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge from the site
Cough, breathing problems, or chest pain
Nausea and vomiting
Redness, warmth, swelling, stiffness, or hardness in the arm or hand on the side of the body where the lymph nodes were taken out
New or worsening pain and swelling in your feet, calves, or legs
Lumps or skin changes in the tissue that is left on mastectomy side
Lumps, skin changes, or nipple drainage in remaining breast
that last at least 2 weeks or longer
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
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.
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