Mastectomy Care

Learn what care is required for the Mastectomy procedure. Find out what you need to do prior to the procedure, how long it will take, if you will be required to stay in the hospital and what the postoperative care is.

Mastectomy Details

Alternate Names for Mastectomy:
Breast surgery
Surgery for breast cancer
Surgery to remove a breast
Surgical removal, breast

What to Expect Prior to Procedure

Your doctor may do the following:

  • Physical exam
  • Mammogram -a test that uses low-dose x-rays to make a picture of breast tissue
  • Fine needle biopsy of the breast-a thin, hollow needle is used to remove a small tissue sample from the breast
  • Blood tests

Leading up to the surgery:

  • Talk to your doctor about your medicines and supplements. You may be asked to stop taking some medicines up to one week before the procedure like:
    • Aspirin or other anti-inflammatory drugs
    • Blood thinners, such as clopidogrel (Plavix) or warfarin (Coumadin)
  • Arrange for a ride home. Ask someone to help you at home.
  • Eat a light meal the night before the surgery. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight.


General anesthesia will be used in most cases. It will block any pain and keep you asleep through the surgery. It is given through an IV in your hand or arm.

Description of the Procedure

The doctor will make an oval-shaped incision in the breast. The breast tissue, including the nipple and areola, will be removed. This will be done by cutting the tissue off of the underlying muscle. Nearby lymph nodes (toward the underarm) may also be removed. The doctor will then insert a tube to drain blood and fluids. Lastly, the area will be closed with stitches.

How Long Will It Take?

1-3 hours

Will It Hurt?

Anesthesia will prevent pain during the procedure. You may have pain while recovering. You may also have numbness and a pinching or pulling feeling in the underarm area. Your doctor will give you pain medicine to help control this pain. If you are having a small area removed, you may not have much pain.

Average Hospital Stay

1-3 days

Post-procedure Care At the Hospital
  • If you had cancer and it has spread, chemotherapy and/or radiation may be needed.
  • The drainage tubes may be removed in 1-2 days.
  • Managing pain and nausea-You might require anti-nausea and pain medicines. You may be nauseated for a few hours after surgery and may not be able to eat normally. Therefore, you may continue to receive fluids and sugar through an IV. For several days after surgery, you may need to eat a lighter, blander diet than usual.
  • Preventing blood clots-You may be given special compression stockings to wear after surgery. These help to decrease the possibility of blood clots forming in your legs.
  • Improving lung function-You may be asked to use an incentive spirometer . This is a device that helps you breathe deeply. It is important to breathe deeply and cough frequently to improve lung function after general anesthesia.
At Home

When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:

  • Keep the area clean and dry.
  • If you have drainage tubes, empty the drains and measure the fluid. Tell your doctor if you have any problems.
  • Avoid vigorous activity for about six weeks.
  • Work with a physical therapist. Therapy may involve shoulder and arm exercises.
  • Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions .
  • If you have had lymph nodes removed, take these precautions to avoid fluid accumulation and infection:
    • Elevate the affected arm.
    • Perform range of motion activities with the arm. Start slowly.
    • Do not have blood pressure taken, blood drawn, or shots given in that arm.
    • Wear gloves to do dishes, household scrubbing, and yard work.
    • Do not wear anything tight on that arm, including elastic in sleeves.
    • Do not carry anything heavy with that arm.
    • Use moisturizer on that arm.
    • Use an electric shaver to shave your armpits.
    • Do not get a sunburn .

Recovery will take about six weeks. You will see your doctor within 7-14 days after the surgery. Your doctor will discuss the results and further treatment. About a month after surgery, you can begin wearing a light-weight prosthetic breast. You can be fitted for a more permanent one when the incision area has healed. If you want breast reconstruction surgery, talk to your doctor.


Learn what Mastectomy is
What Is
Learn what the procedure is. Find out how it is performed.
Reasons For Mastectomy
Reasons For
Find out why and when this procedure should be done.
Mastectomy Complications
Learn about possible complications and what might increase the risk of them.
Mastectomy Details
What to Expect
Find out how long it will take, what they will be doing and what to expect afterwards.
Mastectomy Results
What are the next steps and other possible tests needed after you have received the results.
When to Contact Doctor about Mastectomy
Call Your Doctor
What to look out for and when to call your doctor after a procedure has been done.

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Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Copyright ©2014 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved. Source: EBSCO