Latest Catalogue Mastectomy

Mastectomy

DEFINITION

Mastectomy is a surgical procedure to remove the breast.


DESCRIPTION

Treatment of cancers of the breast usually involves surgery to remove as much of the tumour (cancer) as possible. The patient will have to decide whether to have the whole breast removed (mastectomy) or just to have the tumour (cancer) and surrounding tissue removed (breast-conserving surgery). Survival rates in the first twenty years after surgery for mastectomy and breast-conserving surgery with radiation appear to be identical.
Mastectomy: A simple mastectomy involves the removal of all the breast tissue. The underlying muscle is left intact and skin is left to cover the wound. The breast can be reconstructed more easily, since the chest muscles are left intact. A simple mastectomy is used to treat invasive cancer that has spread within the milk ducts, as this type of cancer will often recur (occur again) if breast-conserving surgery is used. The lymph nodes in the underarm may also be removed in order to check whether the cancer cells have spread outside the breast. Radiation therapy is used after the procedure to decrease the chance of cancer recurring on the chest wall or in nearby lymph nodes. A radical mastectomy involves the removal of all the breast tissue, the underlying chest muscles and other tissues. Nearby lymp nodes or lymph node tissue may be removed during a radical mastectomy. Chemotherapy or hormone-blocking drugs may be given after (and sometimes before) a radical mastectomy depending on the size of the tumour and if cancerous cells were found in a lymph node. If chosen by the patient, breast reconstruction can be performed at the same time as the mastectomy or at a later date. Breast reconstruction involves implanting a saline implant or using tissue taken from other parts of the patient's body to reconstruct the breast.


DIET HINTS

See the Wound Healing Diet on the Healthpoint.


VITAMINS/MINERALS/HERBS

Always consult your Doctor for advice on dosages and interactions before taking any vitamins, minerals or herbs.
Some herbs are not recommended in the weeks before and after surgery due to the direct effects they may have on the body and/or the possibility that they may interact with other medications. You should tell your Surgeon and/or Doctor well before surgery if you are taking ANY supplements. The American Society of anesthesiologists recommends that people stop taking herbal medicines at least two to three weeks before surgery. Ask your Surgeon and/or Doctor for advice.


POST OPERATIVE NOTES

- Your health practitioner will discuss suitable exercises for you to do after the operation. These exercises will help you regain motion and strength in the arm and shoulder areas and help reduce pain and stiffness in the neck and back.
- It is important to have regular follow-up examinations with your Doctor after breast cancer treatment. These will usually involve an examination of the breasts, chest, neck and underarm areas and regular mammograms.
- Continue monthly breast self examination and report any changes in the breast to your Doctor.
- Let your Doctor know if you experience any other physical problems (e.g. pain, loss of appetite or weight, changes in menstrual cycles, unusual vaginal bleeding, blurred vision, headaches, dizziness, shortness of breath, coughing or hoarseness, backaches or digestive problems that seem unusual or that don't go away.


ORGANISATIONS & SUPPORT GROUPS

See the Australian Cancer Society topic on the Healthpoint.


PHARMACIST'S ADVICE

Ask your Pharmacist for advice.
1) Follow the Diet Hints.
2) If you need advice on any medication ask your Pharmacist.
3) If you have any pain ask your Pharmacist for a suitable pain medication.
4) If you need any wound dressings, ask your Pharmacist.
5) If you need to stop smoking ask your Pharmacist for suggestions.
6) After the operation and the stitches have been removed, break open a capsule of vitamin E and apply the pure oil on to the scar. Do this as often as you can. This may help to reduce the scarring.
7) If the diet is inadequate consider some supplements.
8) See the other Breast Cancer topics on the Healthpoint.