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Everything You Need to Know Before Your Mastectomy

Approximately 12% of American women develop breast cancer at some point in their life, and in 2020, experts estimate that over 325,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer. But if you’ve been told you have breast cancer, you may be feeling confused and overwhelmed.  

At OasisMD, our goal is to support you in your fight against cancer, provide much-needed information and guidance, and help you optimize your wellness in the process. Our team of dedicated health care providers is committed to helping our patients overcome even the most challenging medical conditions, like breast cancer, by working together with you as a team to ensure your long-term health. 

Our specialists know that if you’ve been told you need a mastectomy, you probably have questions. We’ve put together this guide to give you the information you need to know before undergoing breast cancer surgery. Read on to learn more! 

What is a mastectomy?

A mastectomy is a type of surgery typically used to prevent or treat breast cancer by removing all breast tissue. It may be used in conjunction with other breast cancer treatment options, like chemotherapy and radiation. 

Sometimes a preventive mastectomy is considered for women who have not been diagnosed with breast cancer, but have a high risk of developing it. In these cases, the goal of mastectomy is to significantly reduce your risk of developing breast cancer in the future. 

What do I need to know before my mastectomy?

At OasisMD, we want our breast cancer patients to feel confident and prepared. Here are our top tips to help you get ready before your mastectomy. 

Know your options

If you’re having a mastectomy, it’s important to know more about the specific type of surgery you’re having as well as whether or not you’ll have breast reconstruction after the procedure. 

Your provider at OasisMD reviews your medical history to provide informed recommendations about both your mastectomy and reconstructive options. Some women may be able to save their nipples (nipple-saving mastectomy) or some of the breast’s skin (skin-sparing mastectomy). 

For all women, different reconstruction options exist depending on your unique situation. Our team works with you to come up with a treatment and reconstruction plan that works for your diagnosis, physique, and post-mastectomy goals.

What to expect during the procedure

If you’re having a mastectomy without immediate reconstruction, you can expect to be in surgery for between one and three hours. Depending on the extent of your surgery, you may need to spend more time in surgery. 

Your doctor will tell you if your procedure will be outpatient, allowing you to go home the same day, or will require an additional stay in the hospital. Longer stays are sometimes required for patients having reconstruction performed at the same time as their mastectomy.  

During the procedure, you’ll have general anesthesia and be asleep. Your surgeon will create an incision and remove the breast tissue and lymph nodes. Depending on the type of surgery recommended, additional tissues or parts of the breast may be removed and sent to a lab for analysis. 

If you’re having reconstruction at a later date, your surgeon may insert tissue expanders into your chest to help shape your new breasts. Once your surgery is complete, your doctor closes the incision with sutures. You may have plastic drains placed to help remove any fluids that accumulate after the procedure. 

What to expect after your mastectomy

After your mastectomy, you’ll be moved to a recovery room and closely monitored to ensure your comfort and wellbeing. You can expect to see a bandage over the surgical site and feel some numbness or pain in the areas surrounding your breast, such as the underarm. 

Your doctor will review post-operative instructions with you and provide directions on any post-surgery medications, like prescriptions for pain management. After your surgery, you’ll want to have the following items on hand to make recovery more comfortable:

Your providers will help you understand how to care for the surgery site and when you’ll return for a follow-up appointment. 

It’s important to note that having a mastectomy can lead to mixed feelings about body image and health. It takes time to feel like you’re back to “normal” and ready to get back to your daily routine. Most women return to work after about two weeks, but some women need more time to adjust. 

If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, contact the team at OasisMD, and request an appointment to learn more about your treatment options.

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