Mastectomy: Before Your Surgery

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Before and after a mastectomy

What is a mastectomy?

A mastectomy is surgery to remove a breast. There are many ways to do it. The type of surgery you have depends on your situation and if you plan to have surgery to reconstruct the breast.

When this surgery is done to cure or prevent cancer, the entire breast is removed. This includes the nipple. During surgery, the doctor may also check your lymph nodes.

After surgery, you'll probably stay overnight in the hospital. You may be able to go back to work or your normal routine in 3 to 6 weeks. It depends on the type of work you do.

When you find out that you have cancer, you may feel many emotions and may need some help coping. Seek out family, friends, and counselors for support. You also can do things at home to make yourself feel better during treatment. Call the American Cancer Society (1-800-227-2345) or visit www.cancer.org to learn more.

How do you prepare for surgery?

Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.

Preparing for surgery

 
  • Be sure you have someone to take you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.
  • Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • If you take a medicine that prevents blood clots, your doctor may tell you to stop taking it before your surgery. Or your doctor may tell you to keep taking it. (These medicines include aspirin and other blood thinners.) Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Tell your doctor ALL the medicines, vitamins, supplements, and herbal remedies you take. Some may increase the risk of problems during your surgery. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the surgery and how soon to do it.
  • Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your advance directive. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets others know your health care wishes. It's a good thing to have before any type of surgery or procedure.

What happens on the day of surgery?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your surgery may be canceled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of surgery, take them with only a sip of water.
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    Take a bath or shower before you come in for your surgery. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
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    Do not shave the surgical site yourself.
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    Take off all jewelry and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital or surgery center

  • Bring a picture ID.
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    The area for surgery is often marked to make sure there are no errors.
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    You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. You will be asleep during the surgery.
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    The surgery will take about 1 to 3 hours.
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    You will have one or two tubes under your skin. These will drain fluid from the surgery area while you heal. The doctor will take these out 2 to 10 days after surgery.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your surgery.
  • You become ill before the surgery (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the surgery.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.