March 01, 2022
Regardless of the method, any mastectomy is a fairly major surgery that can come with a lot of unknowns for a patient who has never been through it before. That is why we want to go in-depth and walk through the entire process with you so that you can know what to expect and have some peace going into your mastectomy.
As with most major surgeries, a complete or modified radical mastectomy will be performed at a hospital by a general surgeon. A partial mastectomy, with or without a lymph node biopsy under the arm, is typically performed as an outpatient with discharge the same day as the surgery.
Aside from this exception, it is important to keep in mind that most patients spend 1-2 nights recovering at the hospital before returning home after their mastectomy. That being said, it could be to your benefit if you pack an overnight bag with some essentials.
We recommend bringing special medically minded apparel to your operation, as it can be incredibly challenging and somewhat painful to put on normal clothes after your surgery. We highly recommend the “STITCHES Mastectomy Camisole.” This camisole opens to the front with easy-to-adjust velcro or snaps closures. Also, this camisole has large pockets to discreetly hold and secure postoperative drains, which are usually issued after surgery. The camisole is also easy to put on, as it will be a challenge to lift your arms to pull clothing over your head.
In addition to the camisole, a postoperative bra may also be helpful, especially if you are having any sort of breast reconstruction. If this is the case, then we recommend the STITCHES Mastectomy Recovery Bra because it offers compression, comfort, and adaptability which are all helpful in the recovery process.
It would also be beneficial to pack some face and body wipes as well as some dry shampoo to stay sanitary while staying in the hospital. Bringing a toothbrush and toothpaste is also highly recommended!
In addition to preparing these items, you will most likely be asked to fast the night before your surgery. Most doctors require you to fast from all food and beverages starting at midnight the night before your procedure. However, make sure you check with your doctor to get the exact details as we are merely providing an estimate for expectations. Do note that we are in no way giving any professional medical advice, so please check in with your doctor for specifics.
Another thing your doctor may tell you is that it is important to stop taking aspirin or aspirin-related products at least 10 days before surgery; as well as any Vitamin E supplements 2 weeks before your surgery. Again, check with your Doctor for the specifics, as these are estimates that apply to most patients at large. When meeting with your doctor before surgery it is important to review these items as well as notify your physician if you are/or think you may be pregnant, inform them of any allergies or irritants, as well as outline your personal medical history. This will ensure your safety and wellbeing before, during, and after surgery.
Now that you’re prepared for your hospital stay, let’s talk about what you can expect from the surgery itself. When you arrive at the hospital for your mastectomy, you will be checking in and admitted to a room to prepare for your surgery. You will meet with both an anesthesiologist and a general surgeon to go over the details of the surgery. While in the pre-op room you will be given a hospital gown to change into (make sure you have your recovery camisole and bra for after the surgery!). Once in the gown, you will be given an IV and will go in to lay on the operating table.
At this point, you will have already been administered anesthesia by your anesthesiologist and will remain in a sleep-like state for the remainder of the surgery (don’t worry, because you will not feel or be awake for any of the surgery). Throughout the entire surgery your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and blood oxygen level will be checked to ensure your safety and wellbeing.
After you, the patient, are under the full effects of anesthesia; the surgeon will begin the mastectomy. Once the skin is sterilized, an incision will be made in the breast (incision types vary depending on the type of mastectomy that we discussed earlier) and the tissue will be gently cut and removed. Also as we discussed before lymph nodes may be removed in the surgery as well (read more about this in our article describing the various types of mastectomy).
The removed tissue will then be sent to a lab for examination. If you are having reconstruction done, then a plastic surgeon will perform this after mastectomy while you are still anesthetized (unless other arrangements have been made).
After the removal of tissue and/or reconstruction, one or more drainage tubes may be placed in affected areas and the skin will be closed with stitches, staples, or adhesive strips. Sterile dressing and bandage will then be placed over the site to protect the incision site. At this point the surgery is complete and you will be transported back to a room to allow for the anesthesia to wear off and for you to recover.
A Mastectomy is a significant operation and is a big deal for patients who have this surgery or any related to it. That is why we put together this article to help you both mentally and practically prepare for your mastectomy.
However, preparation is only one step in the mastectomy process. For more information regarding types of mastectomy procedures, reconstruction vs. “going flat”, recovery resources, and more; be sure to read some of our other articles on mastectomy by clicking on the link below.
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