A mastectomy is a surgical procedure that involves the removal of one or both breasts, either partially or completely, typically as a treatment for breast cancer. While a mastectomy can effectively remove cancerous tissue and reduce the risk of recurrence, it is a significant and often emotionally challenging decision that can have profound physical and psychological effects. It is important for people who are considering or have undergone a mastectomy to have access to information and support to help them navigate the challenges that may arise.
Different types of mastectomies for the treatment of breast cancer
There are a couple of different types of mastectomies and the appropriate one is selected based on factors such as size, location, type, and involvement of the tumor. In addition, it also depends on how the mastectomy will be performed and the amount of tissue that needs to be removed.
Simple or total mastectomy
The entire breast is removed, including the areola and the nipple.
The tissue, the nipple, and the areola are removed, but the part of the skin is left intact. Many people opt for this option when possible because a reconstruction surgery after a skin-sparing mastectomy can result in a more natural breast.
All but the nipple and areola are removed. After this type of mastectomy, a reconstruction of the breast can be performed starting from the nipple. However, since the tissue under the nipple is tested for cancer cells, there is still the possibility that the nipple will need to be removed.
Modified radical mastectomy
This type of surgery consists of the removal of the axillary lymph nodes and the entire breast (including the nipple and areola).
Although it is not frequent, it consists of the total excision of the breast, the axillary lymph nodes, and the pectoral muscles.
Also known as a bilateral mastectomy, it consists of the removal of both breasts, although in some cases a nipple-preserving mastectomy could be performed. This is often done when a person is at high risk of breast cancer.
Care after a mastectomy: the postoperative period is also very important
After a mastectomy, care is essential. Below is a list of tips and care to take into account after the intervention:
It is normal to feel pain after a mastectomy, it is best to follow the pain management steps provided by your doctor and take the medications as indicated. Avoid drinking alcohol during the recovery period.
In the healing process, it is normal to feel a slight pain or stab in the arm, chest, or chest wall. It does not always mean that something is wrong, but rather the wound is healing. If you are concerned about the level of pain, please consult with your doctor.
These sensations should improve on a day-to-day basis until approximately 6 months after surgery. It is important not to use anything hot or cold directly on the wound.
The incision will close on its own except in the case surgical tape strips (Steri-Strips) were used. In this case, the surgeon removes them at each revision.
Seromas, or pockets of fluid, can sometimes be created under the skin. This should not be a cause for concern as they are not harmful, but you should see a doctor if the skin becomes very red.
Lymphatic drainage is a technique highly recommended by doctors after surgery of this type. It is a therapeutic technique that involves the manual stimulation of the lymphatic system to improve circulation and remove waste and toxins from the body. When the lymphatic system becomes congested or compromised, it can result in swelling, inflammation, and compromised immune function. Lymphatic drainage techniques, such as gentle massage and compression, can help to stimulate lymphatic flow and reduce swelling and inflammation, promoting overall health and well-being.
Benefits of lympathic drainage:
Improved sensitivity of the area.
Improves the appearance of the skin.
Decreases pain and interstitial fluid.
It is important to have a balanced diet with high calories and protein to help the area heal more easily. Make sure to stay properly hydrated and avoid drinking alcohol and coffee.
Care should be taken to remove the surgical bra and shower pads. During washing, it is important to gently wash your incisions with soap and water.
After showering, the area should be simply patted dry with a clean towel. It is not advisable to take a bath or use saunas or swimming pools until you are cleared by your doctor.
Reconstructive surgery after a mastectomy
After a mastectomy, it is normal to think about having a reconstruction of the breast or breasts. You can speak with one or more surgeons to compare your options for personalized treatment for your case. It is also important to know, that sometimes it is possible to have a breast reconstruction in the same process as the mastectomy. This procedure is not mandatory, and each person is free to choose the path they want that makes them the most comfortable.
After a mastectomy, the most important thing is to recover and find a way to feel comfortable. If you need more information about this or any other aspect related to cancer, you can contact us, we are always here to help.
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