Mastectomy (also known as Breast Mastectomy and Breast Removal) is a surgical procedure to remove one or both breasts due to breast cancer. The surgeon can remove the entire breast or merely a part (lumpectomy), depending on what’s required to eliminate cancer.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are different types of Mastectomy Procedures, including:
- Radical Mastectomy – removes the breast, underarm lymph nodes and chest muscles (pectoralis minor and major). This invasive approach was the standard procedure for many years. The removal left a large hollow beneath the collarbone. To close the wound, surgeons had to obtain skin grafts from other parts of the body.
- Modified Radical Mastectomy – removes the breast with some or all nymph nodes and the pectoralis minor. The pectoralis major is left intact.
- Partial Mastectomy – also known as lumpectomy, this procedure only removes the cancerous lump and some surrounding tissue. Radiotherapy is required after the operation. Generally, the surgeon leaves the chest muscles and lymph nodes.
- Simple (total) mastectomy – removes the entire breast (including the skin, areola, nipple and breast tissue). Usually the lymph nodes and chest muscles are not removed.
The operation is performed under general anaesthetic. An oval incision is made around your breast. The surgeon removes the required parts (which may or may not include skin, breast tissue, fatty tissue, lymph nodes, lobules, ducts, nipple and areola, depending on which type of breast removal surgery you’re having). Once complete, the incision is closed with stitches. These can either be dissolvable or removable. Adhesive strips may be used to hold the incisions together.
After having one or both breasts removed, you will wake up with a dressing around your chest. There will be one or two drainage tubes coming from the operation site. These are used to drain fluids which may accumulate after the operation. The plastic tubes are sewn to your body. A small drainage bag is attached at the end of the tubes. They are usually removed after about one week.
You will feel pain, numbness and discomfort around your chest and underarm. Pain killers and antibiotics will be prescribed by your surgeon.
The risks of having a mastectomy include:
- Chronic pain
- Swelling and/or numbness in your arm (this is caused by removal of lymph nodes)
- Hard scar tissue
- Pain and stiffness in your shoulder
- Psychological implications from losing a breast.