Mastectomy

Definition

A mastectomy is surgery to remove the entire breast, including the skin and nipple. It is usually done to treat breast cancer.

Description

Before surgery begins, you will be given general anesthesia . This means you will be asleep and pain-free during surgery.

There are different types of mastectomys. Which one your surgeon uses depends on the type of breast problem you have.

The surgeon will make a cut in your breast:

One or two small plastic drains or tubes are usually left in your chest to remove extra fluid from where the breast tissue used to be.

If all the cancer tissue is removed, a plastic surgeon may be able to reconstruct the breast during the same operation. You may also choose to have breast reconstruction with implants or natural tissue later.

Mastectomy usually takes 2 - 3 hours.

Why the Procedure Is Performed

WOMAN DIAGNOSED WITH BREAST CANCER

The most common reason for a mastectomy is breast cancer.

If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, talk to your doctor about your choices:

You and your doctor should consider:

The choice of what is best for you can be difficult. You and the health care providers who are treating your breast cancer will decide together what is best.

WOMEN AT HIGH RISK FOR BREAST CANCER

Women who have a very high risk of developing breast cancer may choose to have a preventive (or prophylactic) mastectomy to reduce your risk of breast cancer.

You may be more likely to get breast cancer if one or more close family relatives has had it, especially at an early age. Genetic tests (such as BRCA1 or BRCA2) may help show that you have a high risk.

Prophylactic mastectomy should be done only after very careful thought and discussion with your doctor, a genetic counselor, your family, and loved ones.

Mastectomy greatly reduces, but does not eliminate, the risk of breast cancer.

Risks

Risks for any surgery are:

Scabbing, blistering, or skin loss along the edge of the surgical cut may occur.

Risks when more invasive surgery, such as a radical mastectomy, is done are:

Before the Procedure

You may have many blood and imaging tests (such as CT scans, bone scans, and chest x-ray) after your doctor finds breast cancer. Your surgeon will want to know whether your cancer has spread.

Always tell your doctor or nurse if:

During the week before the surgery:

On the day of the surgery:

Your doctor or nurse will tell you when to arrive at the hospital.

After the Procedure

Most women stay in the hospital for 1 - 3 days. But this depends on the type of surgery you had. If you have a simple mastectomy, you might go home on the same day. You may be in the hospital longer if you have breast reconstruction.

Many women go home with drainage tubes still in their chest. The doctor will remove them later during an office visit. A nurse will teach you how to look after the drain, or you can have a home care nurse help you.

  You may have pain around the site of your cut after surgery. The pain is moderate after the first day and then quickly goes away. You will receive pain medicines before you are released from the hospital.

Fluid may collect in the area of your mastectomy after all the drains are removed. This is called a seroma. It usually goes away on its own, but it may need to be drained using a needle (aspiration).

Outlook (Prognosis)

Most women recover well after mastectomy.

In addition to surgery, you may need other treatments for breast cancer. These treatments may include hormonal therapy, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. All have their own side effects. Talk to your doctor.


Review Date: 12/10/2012
Reviewed By: Robert A. Cowles, MD, Associate Professor of Surgery, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, and Stephanie Slon.

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