Mastectomy is the surgical removal of the breast, usually to remove a malignant tumour. It is also done in other conditions like cystic breast disease or in case a lump is too big to be removed by lumpectomy. Mastectomy involves removal of the whole breast (simple mastectomy) or a part of it depending on the extent of infection (segmental mastectomy). More often, in cases of cancer, the whole breast along with adjacent muscles is removed (radical mastectomy). It is best performed when the cancer is in its earliest stages.
When is it done?
The procedure is usually done to remove cancerous growths in the breasts. Women, and in some cases men, may require mastectomy.
What happens during the procedure?
The operation is performed under general anaesthesia. The skin around the breast is cleansed with an antiseptic to prevent any infection. A cut is made in the breast around the nipple and the areola to expose the underlying tissues. The entire breast tissue along with the tumour is nobilised. The chest muscles are removed along with the breast in most cases of cancer. After the tumour is removed, the incision is sutured. Antibiotics may be prescribed to avoid post operative infection.
What happens after the procedure?
After the operation, the patient usually has an intravenous tube and an oxygen tube attached to her. Anaesthesia may result in a slightly sore throat when the patient awakens. The doctor may ask the patient to cough out vigorously and breathe deeply so as to clear the lungs.
The patient may receive antibiotics to prevent infection. The patient may be discharged as soon as she feels strong enough which is usually in a week's time. Many women may feel depressed after a mastectomy due to concerns about their looks and sexuality. Mastectomy leaves the woman's chest flat which may cause cosmetic concerns.
However, there are many ways in which the deformity may be disguised, e.g., by wearing padded brassiers or with silicone breast implants. These procedures are being widely used throughout the world.
What can be the post-operative complications?
There may be fluid infection under the skin due to faulty drainage. This may lead to the destruction of cells.
Some women may experience pain in the chest region. This is called post-mastectomy pain syndrome.
Infection in the lymph nodes may cause swelling on the operated side of the arm, called lymphoedema.