(Breast Surgery; Surgery for Breast Cancer; Surgery to Remove a Breast)
- 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.
- 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 of the breast—a thin, hollow needle is used to remove a small tissue sample from the breast
- Blood tests
Talk to your doctor about your medications and supplements. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedure like:
- Anti-inflammatory drugs
- Blood thinners
- Anti-platelet drugs
- Arrange for a ride home. Ask someone to help you at home.
- Eat a light meal the night before the surgery. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight.
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
- Keep the area clean and dry.
- Ask your doctor about when it is safe to shower, bathe, or soak in water.
- Avoid vigorous activity and heavy lifting.
- Rest when you need to. Slowly increase activities as approved by your doctor.
- Physical therapy may involve shoulder and arm exercises.
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
American Cancer Society http://www.cancer.org
Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation http://www.cbcf.org
Canadian Cancer Society http://www.cancer.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. Breastcancer.org 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 -
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
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