Mastectomy: Before Your Surgery
What is a mastectomy?
A mastectomy is surgery to remove a breast. There are many ways the surgery can be done. The type of surgery you will have depends on your situation and whether you plan to have reconstructive surgery.
If a mastectomy is done to cure or prevent cancer, the entire breast, including the nipple, is removed. The doctor may also check the nearby lymph nodes during the surgery.
After surgery, you'll probably stay overnight in the hospital. You may be able to go back to work or your normal routine in 3 to 6 weeks. It depends on the type of work you do.
When you find out that you have cancer, you may feel many emotions and may need some help coping. Seek out family, friends, and counsellors for support. You also can do things at home to make yourself feel better during treatment. Call the Canadian Cancer Society (1-888-939-3333) or visit www.cancer.ca to learn more.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
How do you prepare for surgery?
Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.
Preparing for surgery
- Be sure you have someone to take you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.
- Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
- If you take aspirin or some other blood thinner, ask your doctor if you should stop taking it before your surgery. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do. These medicines increase the risk of bleeding.
- Tell your doctor ALL the medicines and natural health products you take. Some may increase the risk of problems during your surgery. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the surgery and how soon to do it.
- Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your advance care plan. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets others know your health care wishes. It's a good thing to have before any type of surgery or procedure.
What happens on the day of surgery?
- Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking, or your surgery may be cancelled. If your doctor has instructed you to take your medicines on the day of surgery, please do so using only a sip of water.
- Take a bath or shower before you come in for your surgery. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
- Remove all jewellery, piercings, and contact lenses.
- Leave your valuables at home.
At the hospital or surgery centre
Bring a picture ID.
Before surgery you will be asked to repeat your full name, what surgery you are having, and what part of your body is being operated on. The area for surgery may be marked.
A small tube (IV) will be placed in a vein, to give you fluids and medicine to help you relax. Because of the combination of medicines given to keep you comfortable, you may not remember much about the operating room.
You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. You will be asleep during the surgery.
The surgery will take about 1 to 3 hours.
As you wake up in the recovery room, the nurse will check to be sure you are stable and comfortable. It is important for you to tell your doctor and nurse how you feel and ask questions about any concerns you may have.
You will have one or two tubes under your skin to drain fluid from the surgery area while you heal. The doctor will take these out 2 to 10 days after surgery.
When should you call your doctor?
- You have questions or concerns.
- You don't understand how to prepare for your surgery.
- You become ill before the surgery (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
- You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the surgery.
Where can you learn more?
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
Enter W441 in the search box to learn more about "Mastectomy: Before Your Surgery".
Current as of: May 4, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Laura S. Dominici MD - General Surgery, Breast Surgical Oncology