Editorial Staff And Contributors
to view an animated version of this procedure.
A mastectomy is a surgery done to remove breast tissue. Mastectomy procedures include:
A mastectomy is done:
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:
Your doctor may do the following:
Leading up to the surgery:
General anesthesia—you will be asleep during the procedure
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.
Anesthesia will prevent pain during the procedure. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.
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,
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
surgery, talk to your doctor.
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 medical help right away.
American Cancer Society
Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation
Canadian Cancer Society
Axillary lymph nodes. Breast Cancer website. Available at:
http://www.breastcancer.org/pictures/breast_anatomy/axillary_lymph_nodes. Updated September 17, 2013. Accessed January 3, 2014.
Breast cancer in women. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113654/Breast-cancer-in-women. Updated September 14, 2016. Accessed October 10, 2016.
Surgery for breast cancer.
American Cancer Society. Available at:
http://www.cancer.org/cancer/breastcancer/detailedguide/breast-cancer-treating-surgery. Updated December 31, 2013. Accessed January 3, 2014.
Surgery for early and locally advanced breast cancer. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T901192/Surgery-for-early-and-locally-advanced-breast-cancer. Updated March 18, 2015. Accessed October 10, 2016.
Treatments and side effects. Breast Cancer website. Available at:
http://www.breastcancer.org/treatment. Updated May 15, 2013. Accessed January 3, 2014.
Last reviewed November 2015 by Donald Buck, MD
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