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Breast Surgery - Mastectomy

Get Well Soon

Helping you make a speedy recovery after a mastectomy

Who this leaflet is for

This leaflet is for anyone who is recovering from, or who is about to undergo, mastectomy surgery for breast cancer. It should be read in conjunction with any other information you have already been given about your procedure.

The technical term for your breast operation is simple mastectomy. This is how your surgeon and other health professionals who are helping you may refer to it. This information leaflet is for women undergoing mastectomy without surgery to rebuild or reconstruct the breast at the same time. If you would like to consider breast reconstruction, ask your surgeon or breast care nurse about the options available to you.

Simple mastectomy involves removal of the breast tissue and nipple areolar complex (the nipple and the darker skin around the nipple). When you have a mastectomy, you will usually be offered surgery to remove a few or all of the lymph nodes in the armpit (axilla) on the same side.

Whilst surgery is the main treatment for breast cancer, studies have shown some benefit from other treatments, such as radiotherapy, chemotherapy (occasionally before surgery, and possibly after) and anti-hormone tablets. All or some of these approaches may also form part of your treatment plan. However, your individual treatment plan will be discussed at multidisciplinary team meetings with all of the specialists involved in your care; they will make recommendations together and then discuss these treatment options with you. You may also be asked if you would like to take part in national clinical trials; these studies help researchers to develop better treatments and improve outcomes for patients in the future.

The advice in this leaflet offers broad guidelines for women who do not have any complications with their surgery, and whose job is not physically demanding (i.e. does not involve heavy lifting or long periods of standing).

Obviously, every individual has different needs and recovers in different ways – so not all the advice will be suitable for everybody.

Everyone who undergoes a mastectomy for breast cancer should have an allocated contact at the hospital (a key-worker or a breast care nurse specialist), who helps to coordinate all aspects of care. They will help you to make the right choices for a safe and speedy recovery. Your surgeon, general practitioner (GP) and other healthcare professionals will also offer you a lot of very good advice – but ultimately it’s you that has to make the decisions about your care.

Knowing what to expect after the operation can help you make a quicker recovery and get back to enjoying the best possible quality of life. In the pages that follow, you will find information that will help you do that. A diagnosis of breast cancer can provoke a wide range of feelings and emotions; these can be frightening and difficult to deal with. This leaflet also includes web-links to other sources of valuable information.

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