Get answers to your Breast Cancer questions.
Breast removal surgery; Subcutaneous mastectomy; Total mastectomy; Simple mastectomy; Modified radical mastectomy
A mastectomy is surgery to remove the entire breast. It is usually done to treat breast cancer.
You will be given general anesthesia (unconscious and pain-free). 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.
A plastic surgeon may be able to reconstruct the breast (with artificial implants or tissue from your own body) during the same operation. You may also choose to have reconstruction later.
Mastectomy generally takes 2 to 3 hours.
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. Sometimes, it is hard to know whether lumpectomy or mastectomy is best. 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 prophylactic mastectomy. Your doctor may do either a subcutaneous or total mastectomy to reduce your risk of breast cancer if you are at very high risk for developing breast cancer. This is called prophylactic mastectomy.
You may have a higher risk of getting breast cancer if one or more close family relatives has had breast cancer, especially at an early age. Genetic tests (such as BRCA1 or BRCA2) may also show you have a high risk. This surgery should be done only after very careful thought and discussion with your doctor, a genetic counselor, your family, and others.
Mastectomy greatly reduces, but does not eliminate, the risk of breast cancer.
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:
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 to the lymph nodes, liver, lungs, bones, or somewhere else.
Always tell your doctor or nurse if:
During the week before the surgery:
On the day of the surgery:
You may stay in the hospital for 1 to 3 days, depending on the type of surgery you had. If you have a simple mastectomy, you may go home on the same day. Most women go home after 1 to 2 days. You may stay longer if you have breast reconstruction.
Many women go home with drains still in their chest. The doctor then removes them later during an office visit.
You may have pain around the site of your cut after surgery.
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).
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Khatcheressian JL, Wolff AC, Smith TJ, Grunfeld E, Muss HB, Vogel VG, et al. American Society of Clinical Oncology 2006 update of the breast cancer follow-up and management guidelines in the adjuvant setting. J Clin Oncol. 2006;24(31):5091-5097.
Abeloff MD, Wolff AC, Weber BL, Zaks TZ, Sacchini V, McCormick B. Cancer of the breast. In: Abeloff MD, Armitage JO, Niederhuber JE, Kastan MB, McKena WG, eds. Clinical Oncology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2008:chap 95.
Iglehart JD, Smith BL. Diseases of the breast. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2008:chap 34.
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