Mastectomy is the removal of the tissue from one or both breasts. Mastectomies are performed to remove breast cancer. The procedure is often carried out to remove the cancerous cells which are present within the breast and it reduces the potential for breast cancer to spread.

Mastectomy- Types

There are various types of mastectomy, which include:

  • Total mastectomy: In this process, the whole breast is removed, but muscles which are under the lymph nodes and the breast are kept in the place.
  • Double mastectomy: Both of the breasts are removed as a preventive measure, this is used for high-risk patients who are having specific genetic markers which make breast cancer to occur.
  • Radical mastectomy: In this, the entire breast and lymph nodes get removed, but chest muscles will remain intact.
  • Skin-sparing mastectomy: The nipple and breast tissue are removed, the skin is left to reconstruct the breast
  • Nipple-sparing mastectomy: This is a new procedure which leaves the nipple, skin and peripheral breast tissue intact.

Mastectomy- Purpose

Women having various conditions affect the breasts can get a mastectomy, commonly breast cancer. Mastectomies are used for cancers, which include:

  • Non-invasive breast cancer: It includes ductal carcinoma, which is the most common type of non-invasive breast cancer.
  • Stages 1 and 2: Early stage breast cancer
  • Stage 3: Advanced breast cancer
  • Inflammatory breast cancer: This is a harmful disease in which cancer cells will block the lymph vessels in the skin of the breast.
  • Recurrent breast cancer: When cancer returns to the same breast

In some cases, mastectomy can also be performed for some reasons which are not related to the diagnosis of breast cancer, like when a person has:

  • Fibrocystic breast disease
  • Chronic breast pain
  • Dense breast tissue
  • Family history of breast cancer

If the doctor recommends a mastectomy, the type of mastectomy which is done will depend on a range of factors which include:

  • The general health of the patient
  • Size of the tumor
  • Stage of the tumor
  • Involvement of lymph nodes
  • Age of the patient
  • Grade of the tumor
  • Menopause statusAlso Read: Breast Cancer Types

Mastectomy- Risks and Procedure

A mastectomy is a surgical procedure which involves the anesthesia and removal of the tissue. There are some risks which are associated with this surgery, which include:

  • Trouble with anesthesia
  • General stiffness and shoulder pain of the arm
  • Infection and bleeding
  • Blistering, scabbing along with the site of the surgical incision
  • Damage to nerves in the arm, chest wall and back
  • Hard scar tissue is formed at the site of the surgery
  • Build-up of fluid under the skin

Mastectomy- Recovery

mastectomy recovery process

When the mastectomy surgery is done, the patient will be taken care of closely. The doctor will check blood pressure, feelings of nausea, heart rate and level of pain.

At hospital

The average stay at the hospital after the mastectomy is done is 3 days. Patients will be asked to do some exercises to minimize scar formation. The doctor will give the advice to stop certain activities which should be stopped. Before you will leave the hospital, you will be given some guidance:

  • Care for bandages and surgical drain
  • Pain medication, take the required amount of analgesics and you will be given a prescription
  • How to know about the signs of infection
  • Exercises which you will have to do regularly
  • How soon can you wear a normal bra

Recovery at home

The recovery will depend on the person, but the recovery process from mastectomy takes around some weeks. There is likely to be swelling, fever, bruising and some patients can also have a sore throat which is caused by the tube which was inserted down the throat during the surgery. Given below are some guidelines to follow:

  • Pain management: There will be some discomfort, so you should take prescription medication as per your doctor has told you. It’s better to tell your doctor about the pain you are having when asked by doctors.
  • Rest: It is ok to feel tired after the surgery. You should wait for it to heal.
  • Washing: Take sponge baths until staples have been removed.
  • Exercising: Continue to do exercise as per your doctor says.
  • Manage constipation: By taking medication, constipation can occur, it’s said to take fluid and also eating high fiber foods.

Emotional recovery

The physical healing from breast cancer is one part and healing emotionally is another part. It’s normal for people to have an emotional response to:

  • The failure to eradicate cancer, which after a mastectomy can take a significant toll on your emotions
  • The loss of both breasts as well as some physical limitations during the recovery

Preventive mastectomy

It’s common for women to go through the procedure of prophylactic mastectomy to reduce the risk of breast cancer. Prophylactic mastectomies are performed in specific cases. A person will undergo the option of prophylactic mastectomy in these situations:

  • Family history: If a sister, mother or daughter had breast cancer, before their 50th birthday.
  • Women with dense breasts: Diagnosing problems in dense breasts is difficult and repeated scarring can add to the difficulty.
  • Breast cancer in one breast: You are likely to have breast cancer if you are having cancer in either of your breasts.

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