A diagnosis of breast cancer is a daunting experience to say the least. The news of breast cancer surgery can be even more terrifying. Mastectomy is a surgical option for breast cancer involving the removal of the entire breast. Listed below are 5 common questions from patients planning for a mastectomy
- What is the difference between immediate and delayed reconstruction?
Immediate reconstruction is breast reconstruction done at the same time as the mastectomy. Delayed reconstruction is when the patient opts for mastectomy first followed by reconstruction at a later date, sometimes months or even years down the road. At the end of the day, we encourage you to think about what will make you most comfortable. It is important to note, reconstructed breasts never look exactly the same as a natural breast. If you opt for immediate reconstruction, Premier Surgical Associates will coordinate the surgery with a plastic surgeon of your choice.
- What do I need to do for surgery?
Once you have decided upon specifics of the surgery – full or partial mastectomy and delayed or immediate reconstruction – there may be additional decisions to be made. There are varying options for reconstruction that can be discussed with the plastic surgeon. At the pre-operative appointment you can expect to have a number of labs completed and take the necessary steps to pre-register at the hospital. Hospital staff will walk you through what to expect on the day of the procedure.
- What can I expect on the day of surgery?
You must refrain from eating or drinking beginning at midnight prior to the procedure and plan to arrive promptly at your previously scheduled time at the hospital. Depending on the specific procedure at hand, you may begin the day in outpatient surgery for nuclear scanning or begin surgery prep at the breast center if surgery requires wire guidance. Once the procedure is completed, the surgeon will discuss with your family any findings and next steps. Following a mastectomy, you will be required to stay overnight at the hospital. Family and loved ones may join you once you are transferred to a patient room.
- What can I expect during recovery?
Following surgery you will have several drains and you should monitor the output of each drain. At the one week follow up appointment, the physician will decide whether or not the drains should be removed depending upon drainage output. Once the drainage stops, the drains can be pulled. Until the drains are removed, you are unable to submerge in water and should refrain from driving to avoid any strain in the area. Most women do not return to driving until around 2 to 3 weeks post surgery when they have regained safe range of motion in the arms and have stopped the use of all pain medication. Physical activity will be restricted and you should follow specific instructions given by the physician or discharge nurse. Full recovery from a mastectomy can take from 4 to 6 weeks.
- What would you do?
This is the most common question breast cancer surgery patients will ask and one we are unable to answer. At Premier Surgical Associates we encourage patients to take time to make this decision for themselves. Each individual is different and we encourage patients to listen to their heart and consider the things most important to them. Generally speaking, survival and recurrence rates are the same with a mastectomy or lumpectomy and there are pros and cons to each approach to treatment. What we can do is provide you with the facts and encourage you to discuss options with loved ones but ultimately make the decision based upon what will make you most comfortable and happy.
Premier is dedicated to timely diagnosis and comprehensive treatment for all breast problems. Our women’s health team empowers patients and their families to take an active role in the decisions regarding cancer treatment and management. To learn more about your options for breast cancer surgery at Premier Surgical Associates, visit our website.