Mastectomy is the surgical method to treat breast cancer by removing the affected breast and, if required, the nearby tissues. Initially, mastectomy involved the total removal of breasts, specific chest muscles, and lymph nodes in the underarm. But now, with the advancement in medical science, certain breast-conserving surgeries are also possible. Your doctor will decide the type of mastectomy to be performed depending on your age, health, tumor size, grade, and stage.
Alternate Name of Mastectomy Surgery
Breast tissue, areola, nipple, and skin
How is Mastectomy Surgery Performed?
A mastectomy is generally performed under general anesthesia. The procedure typically takes two to three hours. Your surgeon will make an incision to separate the breast tissue from the skin and muscle to which it was attached. Next, your doctor will go for axillary node dissection or sentinel node dissection, whichever is required. Next, your plastic surgeon will perform a breast reconstruction if you have opted for it. If you have not opted for breast reconstruction, your surgeon will place drains inside the operation site, that is, your breasts and armpit, to prevent the accumulation of fluids in the area of the removed tumor. Next, your surgeon will stitch up the incision and wrap up the incision site with bandages that will cover your whole chest area.
Preparation for Mastectomy Surgery
- Preoperative tests: Before the mastectomy surgery, your surgeon will suggest specific tests such as blood tests to check your kidneys, liver, and overall general health. Your doctor will also suggest an ECG, a lung function test, an echocardiogram, a chest x-ray, and a cardiopulmonary exercise test. These tests are conducted to check whether you are fit for the surgery.
- When to get admitted to the hospital: You will be admitted one day before the surgery.
- Diet before the surgery: Your healthcare team will specify that you cannot eat or drink anything 8-12 hours before the surgery. You must inform your doctor about any vitamins, medicines, or supplements you consume. You will need to stop taking aspirin or any other blood-thinning medicine a week before the surgery.
Mastectomy Procedure Type
It can be invasive or non-invasive, depending upon the type of mastectomy chosen.
Follow Up After Mastectomy Surgery
After the mastectomy surgery, you will be shifted to the recovery room, where your blood pressure, breathing, and pulse will be monitored. You might feel pain or numbness at the operation site, but you will be given appropriate pain management medication. You might need to stay at the hospital for three to four days.
Your healthcare professional will prescribe exercises that will help minimize stiffness or scar formation at the operation site. You will also be advised to refrain from undertaking heavy chores. You will be shown to recognize symptoms of an infection or lymphedema. You will be told when to resume wearing a bra.
Risk Factors of Mastectomy Surgery
Although mastectomy surgery is a safe procedure, there might be some risks involved:
- Lymphedema or swelling in your arms in the case of axillary node dissection.
- You might form hard scar tissue at the site of the surgery.
- You might suffer from shoulder pain or stiffness.
- You might suffer from hematoma or blood collection at the surgical site.
- You might have numbness under your arm in the case of lymph node removal.
Recovery After Mastectomy Surgery
Recovery from mastectomy generally takes some time. You can usually return to your everyday life in 4-5 weeks. When you are discharged from the hospital, your doctor will give you information on looking after your incision and when to bathe. You will be prescribed exercises to improve the movement in your arms and shoulders. Otherwise, they become stiff.
You might have to go home with the surgical drains. Your doctor will give you a date for a follow-up when the drains will be removed. Your follow-up is generally scheduled 7-10 days after the mastectomy. You will be prescribed antibiotics and medicines for faster recovery.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Life be Normal After a Mastectomy?
Many temporary side effects of the mastectomy subside gradually. The bruising and swelling reduce, and the surgical scars become less noticeable. Individuals with or without prostheses also adjust to the changes in their body shapes, and over a period of time, they gain self-confidence and social acceptance. Any individual struggling to return to normalcy should seek clinical counselling to lead a healthy life.
What is an Alternative To Mastectomy Surgery?
Mastectomy is recommended based on the tumour's type, size, and extent of spread. While breast conservation surgeries are often preferred by surgeons, mastectomy remains necessary for some patients to prevent the cancer from metastasizing. Preoperative chemotherapy can be used to shrink tumours, making breast-conserving surgery a viable option, but this approach may not be suitable for all patients.
How Painful is Mastectomy Recovery?
Like any major surgery, mastectomy is associated with a certain amount of pain, numbness, tingling or swelling. However, these symptoms are temporary and can be managed with pain-relieving medication prescribed by the surgical oncologist. However, one should not avoid any pain or symptoms that do not respond to the medication, particularly if they present with redness, discharge or a fever.>
What are The Risks and Complications Associated with Mastectomy Surgery?
Like any major surgical procedure, mastectomy carries some risks and potential complications like bleeding, infection, lymphedema (swelling in the arm), seroma (fluid accumulation at the surgical site), and changes in sensation or appearance of the breast. The surgical team will thoroughly explain the potential risks and complications so the patient is mentally aware of them and can make an informed decision.
How Do i Prepare for Mastectomy Surgery?
Preparing for mastectomy surgery involves several steps, including physical exams, blood tests, and imaging tests like mammography or ultrasound. Arrange for transportation and accommodation well in advance to be better prepared. The surgical team will share specific instructions regarding diet and medication with the patient and caregivers.
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