What to expect
Some people with breast cancer are advised to have a mastectomy as part of their treatment. A mastectomy is the removal of the entire breast tissue, along with cancer and can be done in different ways depending on the size and location of the tumour. For many, it may also involve the removal of the nipple and areola area as well. Your surgeon will advise you as to which type of mastectomy is best for you, but it will always involve having a general anaesthetic and an incision or cut across your breast, either diagonally or horizontally to remove the breast tissue. For most, the procedure is well tolerated and involves only an overnight stay.
Sometimes breast reconstruction follows mastectomy in the same surgery and may include partial or complete restoration of breast tissues using tissues from other parts of the body or implants. Your doctor will discuss this option with you and go through details of the procedure.
Mastectomy has both physical and psychological impacts. On the physiological side of things, you may experience pain, symptoms of scar formation and lymphoedema. Psychologically, you might suffer from lack of confidence as a result of changes to your body and how it looks. This can be difficult to deal with, and you may need some support to help you feel more like yourself again.
This guide will cover:
- Lack of confidence
Why does this happen?
- Pain appears because of scar and damage to your nerves during surgery - studies show that up to 68% of patients may experience it for some time. If you had breast reconstruction, you may also feel increased sensitivity and altered sensation or tenderness in the rib area.
- Lack of confidence: It's totally understandable to feel self-conscious or anxious about having a mastectomy. Sudden changes in your physical appearance can be hard to accept, but there are lots of things you can do to make the process a bit easier and help you feel more comfortable with the new look and feel of your body.
- Scars: While you are healing post-surgery, the incision area may sometimes feel stiff, numb, lumpy or even painful. And even a while after surgery, you might feel like you want to change or reduce the appearance of your scars.
- Comfort: Following surgery, you may need some downtime to recover. It's important to get as comfortable as possible while resting in bed so you can recuperate.
- Bathing: Having a shower or bath after surgery could be slightly more complicated. You might need to protect healing scars, or the mobility of your arm on the side of the surgery might be restricted.
- Lymphoedema is caused by excessive lymph that collects in the arm, hand, or chest. This happens because some of the lymph nodes are removed during the surgery, and fluid is still collecting in remaining pathways. The swelling can be uncomfortable or painful, but there are some things you can do to relieve it.