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Mastectomy is surgery to remove part or all of a breast. It may also include the removal of lymph nodes under your arm or muscle under your breast. Mastectomy is done to treat breast cancer and keep cancer from spreading. The type of mastectomy will depend on the size of the tumor and if the cancer has spread. Mastectomy may also be done as a form of prevention if you are at high risk for breast cancer.



  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to help treat or prevent an infection caused by bacteria.
  • Pain medicine: You may be given a prescription medicine to decrease pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take this medicine.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your primary healthcare provider or surgeon as directed:

You may need to return to have your wound checked, drain taken out, and stitches removed. You may also need to see an oncologist for treatment. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.


  • Rest as needed: Slowly start to do more each day. Return to your daily activities as directed.
  • Elevate your arm: Rest your arm at the level of your heart to help decrease pain and swelling. Prop your arm on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated comfortably.
  • Bathing with stitches: Follow your healthcare provider's instructions on when you can bathe. Gently wash the part of your body that has the stitches. Do not rub on the stitches to dry your skin. Pat the area gently with a towel. When the area is dry, put on a clean, new bandage as directed.


You may have surgery at a later date to reconstruct your breast. If you choose not to have breast reconstruction surgery, you may use a prosthesis (artificial breast) that can be worn in your bra. Ask for more information about breast reconstruction or other forms of prosthesis.

Breast self-exam:

Check your breasts for lumps and other changes every month. If you have monthly periods, examine your breasts after your period is over. Contact your breast surgeon if you notice any breast changes. Ask for more information about how to do breast self-exams.

Contact your primary healthcare provider or surgeon if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have discharge or pain in the area where the drain was inserted.
  • You have nausea or are vomiting.
  • Blood soaks through your bandage.
  • Your skin is itchy, swollen, or has a rash.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You feel something is bulging out of your chest and not going back in.
  • You have pain in your chest or armpit that does not go away even after you take pain medicines.
  • There is blood, pus, or a foul-smelling odor coming from your incision.
  • Any part of your arm is numb, tingly, cool, blue, or pale.
  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
  • You suddenly feel lightheaded and short of breath.
  • You have chest pain when you take a deep breath or cough.
  • You cough up blood.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.