What is a Mastectomy?
Mastectomy is a surgery performed to treat or prevent breast cancer by removing the breast tissue.
Types of Mastectomy
There are different types of mastectomy depending on the stage of cancer, size of the breast tumour and lymph node involvement:
- Simple or Total Mastectomy: Your surgeon will remove the entire breast and sometimes the lymph nodes from the armpit by making a 6 to 7-inch long elliptical cut starting from the inside of the breast, close to the breast bone, and continuing up and out toward the armpit.
- Skin-sparing Mastectomy: Your surgeon will cut an opening around the nipple and areola to remove the breast tissue. Most of the breast skin is preserved with this technique, which is generally lost in a traditional mastectomy. It offers the advantage of negligible scarring and provides a good option for immediate breast reconstruction.
- Nipple-sparing Mastectomy: Your surgeon will make an incision usually in the fold of skin under or to the side of the breast, or around the areola, where the cut cannot be easily seen after healing and will spare the nipple. Nipple-sparing mastectomy is not suitable for all patients, however, it is becoming increasingly performed with immediate breast reconstruction.
- Preventive/Prophylactic or risk-reduction Mastectomy: If you are genetically predisposed and have a high risk of developing breast cancer, you may choose to have preventive surgery.
- Partial mastectomy and Immediate Partial Breast Reconstruction
The procedure is performed under general anaesthesia.
Your surgeon will make an oval-shaped incision around the nipple, across the breadth of the breast. Depending on the type of mastectomy, the breast tissue underlying the skin will be removed, along with lymph nodes if there is invasive cancer.
A surgical drain (tubes to collect excess fluid) is usually inserted and the incision closed.
Post-op Mastectomy Care
This surgery will require you to stay in the hospital overnight. To avoid stiffness and scar formation, you must follow some simple hand exercise regimes.
Breast Reconstruction is often considered if you choose to rebuild your breasts after mastectomy.
Risks and Complications of a Mastectomy
As with any surgery, Mastectomy procedures are usually safe but may involve
- The risk of infection,
- Swelling in your arm,
- Hard scar tissue formation at the site of surgery,
- Shoulder pain and stiffness, numbness (especially under your arm), and
- Accumulation of blood or fluid (seroma) in the surgical site.