(Breast Surgery; Surgery for Breast Cancer; Surgery to Remove a Breast)
- Breast-conserving surgery:
- Lumpectomy—The tumor and a small margin of normal breast tissue around it is removed.
- Partial mastectomy—Removal of part of the breast that has cancer and some normal tissue around it. This may include removal of lymph nodes or the lining of the chest muscle.
- Breast-tissue removal surgery:
- Simple mastectomy—The entire breast is removed, including the nipple and areola.
- Skin-sparing mastectomy—The skin that covers the breast is left intact except for the nipple and areola. This surgery is similar to a simple mastectomy. It is done when immediate breast reconstruction is planned. The procedure has limitations and may not be an option for all women.
- Modified radical mastectomy—The entire breast, some lymph nodes in the armpit, and any affected chest muscle is removed.
- Radical mastectomy—The entire breast, lymph nodes, and muscles of the chest wall are removed (rarely done).
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Reasons for Procedure
- To treat breast cancer—removing cancer cells and any affected tissue
- To prevent breast cancer—women with a very high risk of developing breast cancer may have one or both breasts removed
- To treat severe side effects from previous treatment—some people with autoimmune diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus or scleroderma may not be able to tolerate skin side effects from radiation therapy
- Bleeding and bruising
- Seroma—accumulation of clear fluid in the incision
- Lymphedema—swelling of the arm caused by accumulation of fluid in lymph nodes
- Limited arm and shoulder movement
- Numbness of skin on upper arm
- Pain after the procedure, such as burning pr stabbing pain where breast was removed
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
- Physical exam
- Mammogram—a test that uses low-dose x-rays to make a picture of breast tissue
- Fine needle biopsy to test the breast tissue for cancer
- Blood and urine tests
- Talk to your doctor about your medications and supplements. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to 1 week before the procedure.
- Arrange for a ride home.
- Eat a light meal the night before the surgery. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight, unless otherwise instructed.
Description of the Procedure
How Long Will It Take?
Will It Hurt?
Average Hospital Stay
- Pain medications
- Antibiotics to prevent infection
- Medication to prevent blood clots
- Getting out of bed and moving around within 24 hours of your surgery
- Washing their hands
- Wearing gloves or masks
- Keeping your incisions covered
- Washing your hands often and reminding visitors and healthcare providers to do the same
- Reminding your healthcare providers to wear gloves or masks
- Not allowing others to touch your incisions
Call Your Doctor
- New signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Increased redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge from the incision site
- Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
- Persistent nausea and/or vomiting
- Redness, warmth, swelling, stiffness, or hardness in the arm or hand on the side of the body where the lymph nodes were removed
- New or worsening pain and/or swelling in your feet, calves, or legs
- Lumps or skin changes in remaining tissue on mastectomy side
- Lumps, skin changes, or nipple drainage in remaining breast
- Symptoms of depression that last more than 2 week
American Cancer Society www.cancer.org
Breast Cancer http://www.breastcancer.org
Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation http://www.cbcf.org
Women's Web http://www.womensweb.ca
Axillary lymph nodes. Breast Cancer website. Available at: http://www.breastcancer.org/pictures/breast%5Fanatomy/axillary%5Flymph%5Fnodes. Updated September 17, 2013. Accessed January 3, 2014.
Breast cancer in women. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated December 16, 2013. Accessed January 3, 2014.
Surgery for breast cancer. American Cancer Society. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/breastcancer/detailedguide/breast-cancer-treating-surgery. Updated December 31, 2013. Accessed January 3, 2014.
Surgery for early and locally advanced breast cancer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated December 22, 2013. Accessed January 3, 2014.
Treatments and side effects. Breast Cancer website. Available at: http://www.breastcancer.org/treatment. Updated May 15, 2013. Accessed January 3, 2014.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 01/2014 -
- Update Date: 01/03/2014 -