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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.


The week before your surgery:

  • Arrange to have someone drive you home after your surgery. Do not drive yourself home.
  • Ask your caregiver if you need to stop using aspirin or any other prescribed or over-the-counter medicine before your procedure or surgery.
  • Bring your medicine bottles or a list of your medicines when you see your caregiver. Tell your caregiver if you are allergic to any medicine. Tell your caregiver if you use any herbs, food supplements, or over-the-counter medicine.
  • Tell your caregiver if you know or think you might be pregnant.
  • You may need to donate blood before your surgery. Your blood is stored in case you need it during or after your surgery.
  • You may need to have blood and urine tests, a mammogram, chest x-ray, and other tests. Ask your caregiver for more information about these and other tests that you may need. Write down the date, time, and location of each test.
  • Write down the correct date, time, and location of your surgery.

The night before your surgery:

  • You may be given medicine to help you sleep.
  • Ask caregivers about directions for eating and drinking.

The day of your surgery:

  • You or a close family member will be asked to sign a legal document called a consent form. It gives caregivers permission to do the procedure or surgery. It also explains the problems that may happen, and your choices. Make sure all your questions are answered before you sign this form.
  • Ask your caregiver before taking any medicine on the day of your procedure. These medicines include insulin, diabetic pills, high blood pressure pills, or heart pills. Bring a list of all the medicines you take, or your pill bottles, with you to the hospital.
  • Caregivers may insert an intravenous tube (IV) into your vein. A vein in the arm is usually chosen. Through the IV tube, you may be given liquids and medicine.
  • An anesthesiologist will talk to you before your surgery. You may need medicine to keep you asleep or numb an area of your body during surgery. Tell caregivers if you or anyone in your family has had a problem with anesthesia in the past.


What will happen:

  • You may be given medicine to help you relax or make you drowsy. You may also get anesthesia medicine to keep you completely asleep during surgery.
  • Caregivers will make an incision in your breast area. They will remove the tumor and some breast tissue. They may also remove some axillary (underarm) lymph nodes or chest muscles under your breast. Thin rubber tubes may be put into your skin to drain blood from your incision. The incisions will be closed with stitches and covered with bandages.

After your surgery:

You will be taken to a room where you can rest until you are fully awake. Caregivers will monitor you closely. Do not try to get out of bed. When caregivers see that you are okay, you will be taken to your hospital room.


  • You cannot make it to your surgery on time.
  • You have a fever.
  • You have a skin infection or an infected wound near the area where surgery will be done.
  • You have questions or concerns about your surgery.

Seek Care Immediately if

  • You feel a new lump in your chest or other breast or underarm.
  • You see or feel other changes in your breast.
  • You have discharge from your nipple.
  • You have redness, swelling, or severe pain in the breast.


You may bleed more than expected or get an infection after surgery. You may get a blood clot in your arm or leg. The clot may travel to your heart or brain and cause life-threatening problems, such as a heart attack or stroke. Your blood vessels or nerves may get injured during the surgery. You may have scars, shoulder stiffness, or swelling around the area where the breast was removed. If you did not have breast reconstruction done, you may have the stress of living without a breast. If left untreated, breast cancer may spread to other places in your body.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

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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.