What to expect before and
after mastectomy surgery
Mastectomy is a treatment for
women diagnosed with breast
cancer or those who are genetically
predisposed to cancer. The removal
of one or both breasts, mastectomy
surgery may involve removing
just the breast tissue or, in some cases,
the lymph nodes as well.
Data from the Agency for Healthcare
Research and Quality says its
analysis points to a 36 percent increase
of both single and double mastectomies
between the period of 2005 and
2013, the most recent year for data.
Women on the precipice of mastectomy
surgery will naturally have
many questions concerning the procedure
and projected recovery. The process
of recovering is different for everyone,
and not all mastectomies are
the same. The following is a general
idea of what patients can expect before
and after mastectomy surgery:
A mastectomy is performed under
general anesthesia, advises the nonprofi
t group Susan G. Komen. Therefore,
patients should expect to undergo
COURIER L 18 IFE, OCT. 9-15, 2020
routine physical exams and may require
a surgical pre-clearance from
a doctor and the surgical hospital or
center. Blood tests and an EKG may be
ordered as well.
Prior to surgery, patients can begin
making plans for childcare, meal preparation,
shopping, work requirements,
and more. As mastectomy is an invasive
procedure, patients may experience
pain and fatigue after surgery.
Having various plans in play well before
the surgery date can relieve some
stress and help patients focus on their
Purchase comfortable clothing
that will be loose around the arms
and chest. Zip-up tops or those with
front buttons afford easy access. Some
women also opt to get fi tted for post-op
garments, including a lymphedema
sleeve. Lymphedema is a swelling of
the area, and it is a common side effect.
It is helpful to be prepared before
such items are needed.
Mastectomy surgeries typically last
between two and three hours. Some
may last longer if reconstruction is
performed at the same time. Patients
will be admitted to a hospital stay for
a day or two and moved to a recovery
room, and will need to be driven home
Expect to be bandaged and possibly
have a surgical drain at the wound site.
The nonprofi t resource Breastcancer.
org says the drain usually remains in
place one to two weeks after surgery.
Fluid will have to be emptied from the
detachable drain bulb a few times per
day. Sutures that are dissolvable will
not require removal.
Patients should follow the recovery
plans outlined by their doctors. Rest is
most important during this time, so do
not overdo exercise or other activities,
although some movements to relieve
shoulder stiffness may be advised.
Pain, numbness, itching, and myriad
other symptoms may occur. Take
pain medications only as needed and
directed. Weakness is expected in the
arms and shoulders. Ask for help lifting,
moving, or picking up items.
Emotional side effects can be just as
profound as physical ones. Fear of the
cancer, body image issues, and a sense
of loss can occur. Having a strong support
team can help, as can speaking
with a professional counselor.
It can take several weeks to start
feeling like oneself again after mastectomy
surgery. Women should not hold
themselves up to anyone else’s standards
and be patient and hopeful because
this challenging time is temporary.
Learn more at Breastcancer.org.
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