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Mastectomy Basics

The definition of mastectomy means the surgical procedure with removes one or both breasts. This procedure can occur with both men and women. Depending upon the stage of breast cancer this surgery will be performed as it can prevent the spread of the disease. In most situations of this procedure, there will be the entire removal of the breast however there can be a partial; again it does depend upon the stage of the disease and the spread of the cancer itself. Cancer treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy have improved through technology so this does change how the mastectomy is performed and when it is performed. A doctor will determine the best treatment for a patient as it is rare for two patients to have an exact duplication of one another.

It is best for a patient to research the varieties of a mastectomy and ask any questions they may have about this procedure to their doctor until they feel confident. It is very important for patient and doctor to keep a communication line open. This will ensure the correct treatment is well planned and all parties involved are well aware of the situation at hand.

Mastectomy Procedures

There are multiple procedures that can be performed to complete a mastectomy depending upon each situation. They are simple (total), modified radical, and radical mastectomy; skin-sparing mastectomy; subcutaneous mastectomy; lumpectomy; and partial mastectomy. Each procedure is performed surgically and with special care to the patient because this a very delicate surgery; both mental and physical.

When a simple (total) mastectomy is performed, the entire breast is removed; the lymph nodes and surrounding muscle are left intact. When a modified radical mastectomy is performed the entire breast, the lymph nodes under the arm, and the lining over the chest muscles are removed. The muscles remain intact. In the radical mastectomy, the breast, lymph nodes, muscles under the breast, and some of the surrounding fatty tissue is removed. The skin-sparing mastectomy procedure is a procedure in that the surgeon makes a much smaller incision, sometimes called a "keyhole" incision, circling the areola.

During the procedure of a subcutaneous mastectomy the tumor and breast tissue are removed, but the nipple and the overlying skin are left intact. In a lumpectomy procedure, the tumor and a small amount of surrounding tissue are removed. Many lymph nodes may also be removed during the procedure. In a partial matsectomy, a larger amount of breast tissue and some skin are removed with the tumor. This procedure also includes removal of the lining over chest muscles below the tumor and, usually, some lymph nodes. This surgical procedure is only for stage 1 and 2 tumors. (Information gathered from The Surgery Channel)

Mastectomy Surgery Recovery

The mastectomy recovery time overall varies it could be from a day to three days or more depending upon the surgery. (stats taken from It is difficult to say exactly what the outcome will be of a surgery because each patient reacts differently to medication, each patient recovers differently because of their own bodies immune system. Another factor is the type of surgery encountered that can also determine our recovery status. As with any surgery it is very important to follow your doctor's advice and his/her strict guidelines for a good recovery. Something that most patients do (or asked to do) is keep a diary of any affects they feel after the procedure. Things of this nature can help your doctor keep better track of your recovery status. Any specific questions you have about this procedure should be addressed directly with your physician.

Patients have found exercise can help the healing process. It is important for a patient to discuss any type of exercise with their physician especially in this type of situation. Your doctor can tell you if it is permissible and when appropriate to start. If you would like some reading material about exercise, you can visit Staying Abreast® Rehibilitation Exercises for Breast Cancer Surgery. Their website address is

Mastectomy Breast Reconstruction

The good news for patients who have had a mastectomy is they can have breast reconstruction. This issue should be discussed with your surgeon about recovery time in between the mastectomy and the breast reconstruction. They will be able to most likely provide you with answers on what techniques you can have, how it will be completed and the time frame as to how soon it can be completed. Depending upon the type of surgery you have had will determine what reconstruction you can have performed on you.

Options available available for breast reconstruction can be things such as breast implants or reconstruction using fat from other parts of the body. For less evasive procedures and to avoid a second surgery there can be the use of breast forms such as breast pads or even breast enhancers which will enlarge the area. Many women who want to better their appearance but not go through surgery will decide to choose this option.

Breast reconstruction can be a costly procedure because it is plastic surgery. That should be taken into consideration when making a decision on bettering your appearance. Your surgical team will help you decide what is the best route for you to take for improving the quality of your appearance. Important questions to ask your surgeon and/or doctor who has given you the option of breast reconstruction:

Am I a candidate for breast reconstruction?
When can I have reconstruction done?
What types of reconstruction are possible in my specific case?
What is the average cost of each type? Does insurance cover them?
What type of reconstruction is best for me? Why?
How much experience do you (plastic surgeon) have with this procedure?
What results are realistic for me?
Will the reconstructed breast match my remaining breast in size?
How will my reconstructed breast feel to the touch?
Will I have any feeling in my reconstructed breast?
What possible complications should I know about?
How much discomfort or pain will I feel?
How long will I be in the hospital?
Will I need blood transfusions? If so, can I donate my own blood?
How long is the recovery time?
What type of care will I need to do at home?
How much help will I need at home to take care of my drain and wound?
When can I start my exercises?
How much activity should I have at home?
What do I do if I get swelling in my arm (lymphedema)?
When will I be able to return to normal activity such as driving and working?
Can I talk with other women who have had the same surgery?
Will reconstruction interfere with chemotherapy?
Will reconstruction interfere with radiation therapy?
How long will the implant last?
What kinds of changes to the breast can I expect over time?
How will aging affect the reconstructed breast?
What happens if I gain or lose weight?
Are there any new reconstruction options that I should know about?
Question reference website.

Feel free to copy these questions from this page and use them as a reference when you visit your surgeon and/or doctor. The more information you know, the more prepared you will be!

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