Breast Cancer Questions
I am getting ready to have a single mastectomy, can I get some ideas about what to expect?
Asked by Julesmom on Wednesday, March 6, 2013
I am getting ready to have a single mastectomy, can I get some ideas about what to expect?
8 Answers from the Community
I had a single mastectomy 21 months ago. I had an immediate silicone implant at the time of the mastectomy. I thought that would be it. I've had 3 surgeries since then, including a lift on the other side and to achieve symmetry. My oncologist is recommending another plastic surgeon since I didn't notice any difference after the last surgery. I just thought it was the best it could be. I don't expect perfection and I'm not going to rush into another surgery just yet. But I will get an opinion.
In summary, if you have reconstructive surgery, don't expect to be done with one surgery. It's like a construction project-different stages.
No regrets, but if I had to do it again, I don't know that I would get the nipple construction. They can do 3-D tattoos that I understand are realistic looking. Then if you have adjustments, you don't have to worry about the nipples not being level (until surgeries are done and you have the tattoo). Right now they look great in a bra-better than before BC!
Good luck with your surgery.
Once I made my decision to have a mastectomy, it came as a relief (as opposed to debating between that and a lumpectomy). I went to the hospital with my fiance in the early morning. We live in NY and I was treated at Memorial Sloan Kettering. I didn't eat after midnight, took my specified medications the next morning, I went to the surgery floor, checked in, was called in to change in to hospital robes and my fiance and daughter came and sat with me. The anesthesiologist spoke with me about anesthestics and I told her what had made me ill previously. She used a special patch behind my ear to prevent nausea. Then when they were ready for me, a nurse came for me, took my hand and walked me to the OR. I hopped up onto the table (the room was filled with a bunch of nurses), chatted with the very nice anesthesiologist, asked her how long it would take until I was "out" and she told me "not long". The nurses had put a heplock into my arm and the anesthesiologist injected something into it. I told her "that feels cold!" That was the last thing I said.
When I woke up, I think I remember the nurses were calling me and I looked at them and told them (I was a little annoyed) that I wanted to see my fiance (my daughter had left to go on duty [she's a Paramedic]). A few minutes later, my fiance and brother were allowed to see me.
The anesthesia did a nice job of keeping the pain away for many hours. The Vicodin worked well. I wouldn't say I was as sharp as Dr. House (I don't think I necessarily could write a grocery list), but I could chat and answer the doctors questions and chat on the phone and eat and cut my own food and watch tv. It wasn't really painful-just uncomfortable.
At Memorial Sloan Kettering, they do what is called instaneous reconstruction, but it's in stages, meaning that they place an expander in the breast in which you had a mastectomy, so you don't wake up entirely flat. It's something. I found it helpful.
The surgical bra (that all mastectomy patients wake up in) is horribly uncomfortable. I think it was manufactured by the Marquesse de Sade (wife of the Marquis de Sade) Bra Co...;) It does however have the practical purposes of holding the Jackson Pratt drains - those bulbous drains that collect the bloody fluid that drains from your mastectomy site and from which you'll have to record how much fluid you're emptying several times a day for about a week or more. You can even shower with them. Piece of advice - be careful showering especially when you start to do this at home. Have a caregiver stay in the bathroom with you while you do. You may be a bit lightheaded. Skip shaving your legs in the shower and be careful when lifting your arms over your head to shampoo. They'll go over all this with you in the hospital.
I found that I needed Vicodin for a while after I was discharged. The surgeon/plastic surgeon expects this, but I was not taking anywhere near the prescribed dose. Be sure not to take so much Vicodin that you start yourself on the road to Rehab.
My fiance stayed way past visiting hours and once my daughter was on duty (in her Medic's uniform) and popped in at midnight (the nurses weren't about to stop a Paramedic who came to visit her mom). So that's my tale. I hope it helps you. I wasn't frightened. I was much more frightened of what could have happened. I'm lucky. I was Stage I, I didn't have anything in my lymph nodes, and through Oncotype testing I found I didn't need chemotherapy. I'm taking Tamoxifen because I'm ER+, PR+. (I'm HER2-).
Hi, I'm Beverly. I too went into surgery not really knowing what to expect because the Surgeon didn't know what she would find. What we ended with was a Radical Left Breast Mastectomy. I was lucky to only have 6 lymph nodes removed, but lost a lot of muscle and tissue under my arm and up to my collar bone. I need a tennis ball in place before I can be called flat chested. ;). Reconstruction was not possible until the need for Radiation was determined. And that didn't happen until the Pathology Review Board met. As Breast Cancer is revealing more and more details about itself, the Medical Community is more and more convinced that every tumor is unique.
I had internal stitches, and glue outside. The drains were removed by my PCP about 3 weeks later in his office. If you are having you surgery at MD Anderson, the Ansesthesiologist I had used Thoracic Spinal Area injections for nerve blocks. I was pain free for 24 hours after the surgery. And I think that contributed greatly to a reduced healing time!
I wish you well.
Sorry to be long winded, but if you have more questions, just ask!
My biggest advise is remember that each of us is different, especially with our health and how our systems and bodies heal. Don't get too afraid if something occurs for you, but didn't for someone else that you've talked to. Listen to your physicians/surgeons, take someone with you to your appts., take notes and ask questions as they come up.
In the Fall of 2007, my left mastectomy surgery was pretty cut and dry. The most discomfort I had was with the drainage sites. They were somewhat sensitive and tender. My surgeon did an excellent job. At first I didn't realize why she left the area a little puffy, but later she explained that there would be a little more chest area flesh to work with when I was ready for re-construction. For several weeks afterward, I did have some phantom feeling/sensation where my breast was. It eventually subsided. I then did my Chemo and waited awhile to have my re-construction done.
In the Spring of 2009, I had a Tram-flap Re-constructive procedure (a tummy tuck and new breast). I have a bikini-line incision, which has faded very well over the years. My reconstructed left breast was formed very well by a Plastic surgeon who is exceptional at his craft. I did have an issue with part of it healing properly, but my surgeon used Nitro and Leech therapy. Both helped get rid of the venous blood under the skin, which did help the healing somewhat, but not completely. I had to have a revision, which then healed well. Once the drainage stopped, I was able to slowly start getting the muscles back in shape with exercise. I did have some discomfort in my abdomen, where my muscle was re-positioned from and in my chest area where it was positioned to. The reconstructed breast was tender and sensitive for some time, but faded over a few weeks. Honestly, the pain, discomfort and swelling were not as bad as I expected. The first several days I had the typical pain from the trauma to the skin, muscle and incisions. After that, it felt more like bad bruising. Listening to and working with my surgeons helped my recuperation. Most of my scars have faded very well. I did and still use Vaseline Cocoa Butter lotion.
You may also ask your surgeon if there are any of his/her patients (current and past), that you could talk with. I did this for my Plastic surgeon several times. I found out that it did answer some of their questions and helped them make their final decision on the type of re-con to do.
Remember, each of us is different; Listen, takes notes, take someone with you to your appointments, ask questions, lean on your family and friends, keep your Faith, and most of all.........STAY POSITIVE. All these things and the good Lord's Blessings will get you through this trying time.
Hi Julesmom! I had a single mastectomy on Feb. 26, '13. I had mine done out-patient because it was much cheaper for me. They prepped me for surgery by putting an IV in my hand and giving me anti-nausea meds. I answered a bunch of questions so the surgical team could do their paperwork. I was given something to knock me out and the next thing I knew I was waking up and it was over. It was emotional. The first thing I did was touch my chest and then cried,"It's gone, it's really gone." I had a large bandage covering my chest (half chest, surgical site). Also a drain tube coming from below the breast area. About a half hour after surgery the pain meds wore off and it hurt. They gave me more in my IV. An hour after that I was discharged and allowed to go home. The surgery removed my right breast, placed an expander in my chest for the beginning of reconstruction, and also 4 lymph nodes were removed. I could move my arm but not very high. I went home, took some pain meds(vicodin), and crawled in bed. I woke up stiff and sore. My breast area hardly hurt at all but the area where the lymph nodes were removed, oh my goodness, that really hurt. For three days I rested and took pain meds around the clock. Those were the roughest days but after that it was much easier. I'm still not allowed to lift so I can't go back to work but I'll be able to soon. It's only been 11 days and I'm doing incredibly well. My only pain is in the area of lymph node removal and also where the port is in my expander (it presses on my rib). It was painful but honestly not as bad as I had expected. Good luck with your surgery. I hope all goes well and you are on the mend before you know it! I hope this helped :)