Guide to Breast Cancer Surgery

When cancer occurs, it involves cells mutating and growing out of control. There are many different types of cancer depending on where in the body it is found, including breast cancer. Women’s breasts are unique because no breast is exactly the same as another. Breasts may even feel uneven, and they can have unusual lumps. Breasts change throughout a woman’s lifetime with weight fluctuations, hormonal shifts, and aging. Because breast cancer is a common disease for women, it’s important to follow guidelines for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.

What Is Breast Cancer?

Although physicians do not know precisely why some women develop breast cancer and others do not, doctors do know that women can have specific risk factors that make it more likely that they will develop breast cancer. As women age, they become more likely to develop breast cancer. Two specific genes have been identified as significant risks for developing hereditary breast cancer. A woman who began menstruating before age 12 or continued menstruating until after age 55 also has a higher risk for breast cancer. A lump, a change in the size or shape of a breast, or unusual discharge from the nipple may be symptoms of breast cancer.

Prevention

It’s impossible to prevent breast cancer, but women can take steps to lower their risks for developing the disease. Maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy diet are three ways to minimize breast cancer risk. A woman with a family history of breast cancer might choose to undergo special DNA testing to determine whether genes are present that could increase breast cancer risk. Early detection is also important to ensure that breast cancer is diagnosed and treated as quickly as possible. Women should perform breast self-exams monthly.

Surgery

Breast cancer surgery might involve removal of the lump only, or it could involve removal of the entire breast. With a lumpectomy, surgeons remove the tumor and surrounding tissue only, leaving the breast intact. Generally, patients undergoing a lumpectomy will also have radiation therapy. A mastectomy involves removal of the entire breast as well as surrounding lymph nodes. Patients often choose to have a special type of plastic surgery called breast reconstruction surgery after a mastectomy.

Support for Families

Families of breast cancer patients usually experience feelings of fear and anxiety with this diagnosis. The patient will need support while undergoing diagnosis, treatment, surgery, and recovery. Patients may become depressed and angry after diagnosis. While families usually wish to support and assist their loved one during treatment, it’s also important to meet their own personal needs. Family members may need to find outside sources for support during this time of illness.

Post-Surgical Recovery

The first two weeks after surgery are the most difficult time for breast cancer patients. Rest is important for successful healing. Patients should perform as little physical activity as possible during this time. Walking around the house, shoulder rolls, and deep breathing are permissible activities. Prescribed medication will help manage pain. After the initial recovery, patients should participate in physical therapy to continue the recuperation process.