What you need to know about Mastectomy Procedure
Mastectomy is a surgical procedure to remove all breast tissue from a breast. The goal of this surgery is to treat breast cancer. It is often performed when a woman cannot be treated with breast-conserving surgery (lumpectomy), which is a surgery where only the tumor is removed while the breast is preserved. Mastectomy is also the main treatment for breast cancer in men. Because men only have little breast tissue, and most tumors in men appear under the nipple, surgeons usually need to remove the whole breasts. Depending on your situation, mastectomy can be done to remove only one breast (known as unilateral mastectomy) or both breasts (known as bilateral mastectomy).
Mastectomy may be recommended to treat numerous types of breast cancer, including early-stage breast cancer (Stages I and II), locally advanced breast cancer (stages III), ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), inflammatory breast cancer, locally recurrent breast cancer, and Paget’s disease of the breast. Your doctor may recommend mastectomy if the cancer is in a large area of the breast or cancer has spread all around the breast. A mastectomy may also be recommended if you have a very high risk of developing breast cancer. Mastectomy performed to prevent breast cancer is known as prophylactic mastectomy. Doctors also recommend mastectomy for people with gynecomastia.
In most cases, breast reconstruction can be done at the same time as your mastectomy, but you can also choose to have it at a later date.
Breast cancer can be dangerous and life-threatening. It can change every aspect of your life in different ways. Breast cancer can also spread to other parts of the body, causing more complications. After a mastectomy, your quality of life should improve. Cancer may not spread to other parts of the body, and you may have higher survival rates.
What does the Procedure Involve?
During a mastectomy, a horizontal or diagonal incision is made across your breast so the tissue can be removed. The amount of tissue removed will depend on the type of mastectomy you are undergoing as other parts of the breast may also be removed. Some of the main types of mastectomy are as follows:
- A total mastectomy removes the whole breast, including your nipple, areola, and skin. Depending on the situation, the surgeon may also remove some underarm lymph nodes. This procedure is mostly performed on women with large or multiple areas of (DCIS) and women who need to prevent breast cancer (prophylactic mastectomy).
- Skin-sparing mastectomy involves removing all breast tissue, areola, and nipple, but not the skin covering the breast. However, it may not be ideal for large tumors.
- Nipple-sparing mastectomy is a variation of the skin-sparing mastectomy. During this type of mastectomy, only the breast tissue is removed, while the skin, nipple, and areola are left in place.
- Radical mastectomy is the most extensive type of mastectomy. It involves removing the entire breast (breast tissue, skin, nipple, and areola), lymph nodes of the underarm, and pectoral muscles under the breast. It is only recommended if the breast cancer has spread to the pectoral muscle.
All types of mastectomy are performed under general anesthetic, so you will be ‘asleep’ and unaware of anything while the surgery is carried out.
How Long Should I Stay at my Destination?
A mastectomy takes about 1 – 3 hours to complete. Most patients are allowed to leave the hospital on the same day. If the procedure is followed by breast reconstruction, you may need to stay for 2 to 3 days. In total, you should plan to stay in the area for 14 days because you will need to attend follow-up checkups and your doctor may want you to get more treatment based on your pathology report.
What’s the Recovery Time?
The recovery period depends on the type of mastectomy you undergo. The total recovery time may take about 4 to 6 weeks. However, you may be able to get back to work within 2 to 3 weeks (if your job does not involve a lot of physical activities).
What About Aftercare?
Your surgeon will give you a detailed aftercare instruction, which may include a diet plan, signs of infection to recognize, use of medicines, any restrictions, and caring for the surgical wounds. Your doctor may also recommend that you do some arm exercises to encourage a full range of movement back to the area around the arm.
You should also schedule regular checkups to ensure cancer has not come back. You can choose to have the checkups with your local doctor of the doctor at your destination. Furthermore, if your pathology result shows that you need more treatment, your surgeon may refer you to a radiation oncologist, a medical oncologist, or a counselor.
What’s the Success Rate?
The survival rate for breast cancer patients may increase significantly after a mastectomy. A study revealed that 81.2% of women who had double mastectomy survived more than 10 years. In some cases, recurrence can occur, resulting in malignancy. This decreases the success rate of the procedure. Mastectomy done to treat gynecomastia is recorded to have a 90% success rate.
Like other surgical procedures, mastectomy carries a risk of complications. The risks you need to be aware of are pain, bleeding, infection, numbness, stiffness and shoulder pain, scar tissue, hematoma, and swelling in your arm.
Are there Alternatives to Mastectomy Procedure?
The alternative to mastectomy are as follows:
- Lumpectomy involves removing the tumor and some surrounding tissue from the breast. It is also known as “breast preservation” surgery because most parts of the breast are left in place. It is ideal for patients with early-stage cancer.
- Radiation therapy uses ionizing radiations to kill malignant cells that cause breast cancer. It damages the cell DNA to stop the cell division and metastasis. This therapy is mostly used for localized cancer.
- Immunotherapy works by stimulating your immune system to fight cancer cells.
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